This body of work is a reflection of my personal background, and was influenced by a trip I took in the summer of 2013. The landscapes are composited from the two countries that comprise my inherited, and experienced, identity: Israel and Canada. I had been waiting for the opportunity to fly back to Israel, to where I grew up, for twelve and a half years.
As a child, relocation was frequent. I moved to Israel from Estonia when I was 2 years old, living initially in a small Kibbutz and, later, in a Moshav with my older brother and my mother. I was generally a happy kid, I had lots of friends, I was studious, and my love for art was nurtured. This backdrop shifted, however, when we moved to Canada when I was 11. As a kid, I remember thinking that moving to North America would be a terrific experience, that I would change for the better and make something of myself in that “promised land”. The transition was trying for an adolescent.
Coming to Toronto, I had to adjust to the language, the city, and the people. Making friends was daunting for a foreign kid in elementary school, not finding my classmates, or the weather, as friendly as before. For a long time, I was extremely unhappy, and it took me about four years to really digest that I’d be staying in Canada for a while. It wasn't until we moved again, from mid-town to the suburbs at age 14, that I started feeling better about my situation. Things began to settle incrementally, and eventually the craving to go back wore off.
Visiting Israel at 24 was a very emotional, personal experience. When I landed, just the smell of the air felt overwhelmingly familiar, and hearing the language felt like home. I spent a month traveling the country, including the two small places where I was raised, capped by a few weeks staying in Tel Aviv. Social interactions made me realize this place I called home was not as familiar as I romanticized. I speak Hebrew fluently, yet people knew instantly that I didn't live in Israel anymore. My mannerisms were more Canadian than Israeli, and I was slow to grasp social cues. In Israel I was Canadian, and in Canada I was Israeli. Journeying back to Toronto, I realized both, and neither, are home to me.
This project is the processing of my story. The landscapes fuse Canada and Israel; the bottom half, the terrain, was photographed in the deserts of Israel, and the skies were taken in Canada. They are digitally manipulated to appear otherworldly, like a different planet, representing a place I am estranged from. In them I see a familiarity, a place that is so beautiful, that has recognizable features, but somewhere I feel alien.
Digital Photography, Fine Arts, Photography2014
These works are an interpretation and depiction of the character of Mother Nature. Given various names in different cultures, the nature goddess is always worshipped for her association with fertility, fecundity, and agricultural bounty. The most well-known of these is the Greek goddess Gaia, whose name is used for some of the works. In the Greek Olympian creation myth, Gaia is the first goddess to be created from Chaos (nothing) and is the personification of the earth. She gave birth to the sky, mountains and seas, from which all the other gods came.
The character of Mother Nature is thought to be the first being to be worshipped by people—the very first god. When humans were hunter-gatherers, the goddess was equivalent to the Abrahamic god we know today: a being that was mysterious, unpredictable and endlessly powerful. Nature was something that we did not control and was therefore unexplainable and dangerous. After the agricultural revolution, followed by the industrial revolution, this fear of nature was diminished. We have not only conquered nature through technology, but are now destroying it as well with pollution and global warming. The world’s predominant religion (Christianity) always depicts god as a man, never a woman, and devalues women in many ways.
These images take the goddess back to her origins and portray her as powerful, mysterious and ethereal. To depict her character, the goddess is metaphorically and literally blending with nature: branches as arms are an example of this. To represent her strength, a dancer was chosen to model, as dancers are physically strong. Exaggerating this, the muscles were accentuated through photo-manipulation.
The goddess is sometimes depicted with horns or antlers in the images to reference the horned god, a primary deity found in neopagan religions, in which he is associated with nature, sexuality, hunting and life cycle. Christianity co-opted with this character and conceptualized him as evil (the devil), especially due to the association with sexuality. The horned goddess in these works embraces sexuality and sexual expression.
The portraits of the goddess with a halo reference Christian religious iconography, mocking depictions of Jesus Christ and The Virgin Mary. Furthermore, the oval shape, lighting and the painterly esthetic of the images were influenced from Baroque painters like Frans Snyder, Peter Paul Rubens, and Jan Weenix.
The images personify a nature goddess taken back to her origins, questioning our values and treatment of the natural environment and the state of the earth. They portray the goddess as a woman that is powerful, capable and defeating—she is goddess almighty.Digital Art, Digital Photography, Fine Arts2013
As part of an exploration project by the Female Artist Collaborative, I was asked to create a piece that reinterprets, elaborates, or sheds new light on Frida Kahlo’s 1946 painting “The Wounded Deer”. I was proud to collaborate with female artists from all over the world, and be a part of the second annual show.Digital Art, Fine Arts, Photography2013
“The Vanishing of Gaia” is a contemporary interpretation of the Greek goddess Gaia. In the Olympian creation myth, Gaia is the first goddess to be created from Chaos (nothing) and is the personification of the earth (mother nature). She gave birth to the sky, mountains, and seas and is therefore a symbol of nature in these images. Each image in the series portrays the goddess fading within a nature scene, alluding to climate change and the destruction of nature.
Among its many menacingly destructive consequences, climate change threatens the health of the polar ice caps, already significantly diminished. The melting polar ice caps have raised global sea levels sufficiently to render innumerable people all over the world homeless. The waters captured in the backgrounds of some of the images suggest the possibility of rising sea levels destroying the environment. Similarly, the other nature scenes portray the goddess fractured and fading symbolizing the impact of climate change on the environment.Digital Art, Fine Arts, Photography2013
A project influenced by the surrealists, taken into the artist's own hands and transformed into an illustrative, photographic body of work.Digital Art, Fine Arts, Photography2013
When you think of fairy tales, you might think of a beautiful princess with long golden hair, a handsome prince in shinning armor, or a fairy godmother performing miracles. Think again. The sweet, innocent children's tales known today did not always end with “happily ever after”. The meaning, tone and content of older versions of these fairy tales, collected by the Brothers Grimm, was dark, even ugly. They included harsh punishment of characters, sexual inferences and often death. These tales were rich and expressive, passed down for generations through an oral tradition that allowed constant alterations by individual story-tellers. Criticized as unsuitable for children, the earlier versions of these stories were edited to suit ever-changing societal tastes. Over time, all ugliness and sexual connotations were removed, culminating in changes made over the last century – by Disney. This series attempts to thematically take these fairy tales back in time through image composites. I create my own versions of Walt Disney’s Cinderella, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Thumbelina, the Little Mermaid, and Goldilocks – introducing a different way down the rabbit hole.
The dark aesthetic takes the stories back to their origins, mocking the Disney versions for their simplistic happy endings. Contrasting the tale of Alice in Wonderland, my own image presents Alice as a girl with a mental illness, in a dark state of mind, as her environment suggests. This depicts the tale in its original, dark form, which is far more expressive. Visual elements portray this idea as well. For instance, while many of Disney's heroins are portrayed having beautiful golden hair, I use only dark hair in all the stories. These repeating visual details tie up the stories thematically, correcting Disney’s uninspired, sanitized versions of these tales.
I choose to narrate the story as well as participate in it, placing myself as the dark haired heroin. She is not saved by a prince, but alone and in despair, or even dead. Playing the role of the girl character, I challenge conventional ideas about how a women should act, look and be like. For example, Cinderella sits crying as her leg has been cut off by her sisters as punishment. The recreated narrative in this image returns the story's tone to what is presented earlier versions, while acknowledging and embracing the fact that these stories are meant to be shaped by their creator, thus creating stories that speak about much more than the Disney versions do.
My inspiration for this series came from women writers of the 17th century. Writing primarily for adults, women used these stories to create alternate realities--worlds that could only exist in imagination. Their stories touched on counter-cultural ideas such as choice of spouse, inheritance rights, and woman's right to education. Their tales challenged both literary and social conventions in a world where they did not have political power. A story by Marie Ebner‐Eschenbach, “Princess Banalia”, 1872 tells the story of a queen breaking away from her expectations as a queen, woman and wife, as she longs to join her beloved. In this story, the heroin embraces her own sexuality, breaking away from the expectations imposed on her by society.
In this series, I re-frame Disney versions of fairy tales through my own lens. They are illustrated as dark, ugly, and horrid. This parallels previous versions, while presenting the case that current Disney versions of fairy tales are uncreative and unrealistic. The twisted narrative in the images and use of character also challenges mainstream cultural myths about what a woman should be, and how her story really ends. The series also stressed that the plot of the story is always controlled by its teller, in this case, not ending happily ever after.
Digital Art, Fine Arts, Photography2013
Digital Art, Photography, Retouching2013
Using the Roman Goddess Venus, This body of work challenges perceptions of beauty and femininity. Similarly to the nature goddess, Venus uses her power, beauty and sexuality, to allure and conquer, for which she is respected and worshiped. Today, western culture perpetuates a comprehension that strength is tide with masculinity, and thus to be a powerful woman one must exude masculine traits. This notion only further seeks to undermine femininity, as femininity does not mean weakness.
I recover and reclaim feminine attributes (beauty, hair, aesthetics) to denote positivity in women in the new works. Venus has long hair floating in all directions to appear like a lion symbolizing strength. I believe it is vital for women to reclaim ladylikeness, to grab hold of love and romanticism, the emblems of which include nature - sun, rocks, animals - which has otherwise been chastised.
Digital Art, Fine Arts, Photography2013
All images available to purchase online at www.etsy.com/people/alicezilberbergDigital Art2013
All works © Alice Zilberberg 2013.