Jaffa Port, "From Within", by the artist Nirit Levav Packer. I was already familiar with Nirit's work through her Dog series, which I have seen in several high-end gift shops in the Tel Aviv area, but this was exhibition something extra special. Her life-size statues of pregnant women, made mainly of metals (motorcycle and car parts), as well as coat hangers, branches and more were at the centre of the exhibit. The Dog series "Unchained", and dresses made of various materials, were an extra treat, and showed me just how imaginative and talented Nirit Levav Packer really is.
Nirit Levav Packer was born in 1963. She graduated from the Parsons School of Design in New York with a degree in fashion design, then proceeded to develop a career in fashion, specialising in wedding dresses.
Nirit acquired most of her early training as an artist at her father's theatre sets workshop. The workshop was often visited by renowned sculptors and painters and Nirit would spend her vacations helping her father. He taught her welding, metal cutting and most importantly of all, not to fear experimenting with various ideas and substances. This training was complemented by her mother, a crafts teacher and a hobbyist seamstress.
After a number of years, Nirit realised that she was no longer fulfilled by being solely a fashion designer. Though there was a creative element to making wedding dresses, she was limited to a certain type of cloth and colour. Parallel to her other occupations, she started to explore other creative avenues and broaden her education by studying jewellery, pottery, ceramic sculpture and iron sculpting. After a random visit to a bike shop, where she asked for the shop's accumulated junk and received a box full of bicycle chains, she decided to focus on a single raw material - recycled bicycle chains, and on a single theme - dogs. The Dog series began, and the 20 or so figures in the "From Within" series followed.
The sculptures, composed of junk collected by the artist, illustrate her ability to humanise and instill delicacy and softness into hard, cold metal. In them she merges her full femininity (mother of 4, former designer of delicate, white wedding dresses) with the masculine power within her - metal work, welding and cutting, lifting heavy weights, rummaging through garbage containers and more.
"Curly", above, features a kneeling pregnant woman, with arms raised and placed on her head. This piece is made of motorcycle connecting rods but they give the impression of being skin-like. Other alluring figures in the main section of the exhibition include "Dotty", made of motorcycle ball bearings; "Jumpy", naturally out of car engine springs; and "Prayer" for which Nirit used motorcycle roller bearing cages.
"From Within" was a charming exhibition, full of original works and brilliant ideas, and situated in the most amazing space at the Jaffa Port. I enjoyed it so much that I went back for a second look another day!
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