Last Monday David Bowie passed away. We had been listening to the local Israeli radio stations play cuts from his new album, Blackstar, since Friday (along with many songs from past albums). As we traveled into Haifa or throughout the Galilee, the songs kept coming. The power of both food and music to resurrect old, submerged memories from the past is amazing to me. As the music of Bowie continued, John and I were reminded of times past: for me, it was buying the album, Aladdin Sane, which featured an androgynous Bowie on the cover, just to shock my parents. It was the Rebel, Rebel stage, and this was an attempt at late teenage independence. The music was pretty great too. Flash forward to my move from the East Coast to Southern California. My third week in Los Angeles, I actually met David Bowie on Dayton Ave. in Beverly Hills. I was coming back from a job interview, and there he was, walking towards me. I had to do something, so I approached him with a warm “Welcome to LA, Mr. Bowie!!!” I didn’t know what to say, and made a complete fool of myself, but he was most gracious and we exchanged a few sentences. Sadly, this was years before cellphones and selfies. As the music played, we reminisced about old friends – and how I drove the Toyota Tercel stick shift in my fluffy, lace wedding dress and high heels, bridesmaids in the back, to my wedding. We were blasting out Modern Love, singing at the top of our voices and having a great time. The many concerts we had taken in, the photos I had taken, trying to become the next Annie Leibowitz or Rolling Stone concert photographer….
Because of the glorious music we’d heard on Sunday, we decided to take a trip to the artists’ colony of Ein Hod on Monday. We’d heard a lot about it, and this was on our “to-do” list. Between Haifa and Caesaria, at the Southern foot of Mt Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean coastline lies Ein Hod. It was another Crusader town, complete with the ruins of a 12th century fortress. After Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, a small group of Jewish artists, led by the acclaimed founder of the Dada movement, Marcel Janco (a post-WWII immigrant from Austria/Switzerland), had a dream to create an art kibbutz from the ruins there. Together, these various artists would rebuild the place with the vision of forming a cooperative where artists would be welcomed to live and collaborate on their visions and projects for both art and art education. Its still one of the few places in the world where artists live together to work on everything from visual arts of all kinds to music, literature, and theatre in an atmosphere of reciprocity between their combined projects. Today, there are cafes, B&Bs and restaurants scattered between the artists’ residences (usually run by the artists or their families), as well as weekly concerts, readings, and theatrical performances given. In addition, there are many galleries and museums; outdoor installments; and other surprises.
We had decided to visit Ein Hod on a Monday, the one day of the week when most things are closed. As it turned out, this was another unexpected gift for us. The town was fairly deserted, unlike the normal weekends which are thronged with visitors. I knew we were in for a treat at the very start. The entrance to the sleepy little town was lined with sculpture, and self-made signs and posters directing the visitor to individual shops, galleries and artists’ private residences.
For those of you who know me personally, the decision to hit up the antiques shop first should come as no surprise. It’s been a full year (of withdrawals) for me. I had been the proprietor of a small antiques business for over 20 years, so… we rang the doorbell of the closed store, and we’re greeted by the owner, Claude Jancourt, from France, who lives there with his artist wife, Batia (formerly from Canada). What a treat! Yes, it was a homecoming to be back in the land of English and North American antiques and vintage, but spending a bit of time with our gracious host was just lovely. Claude took us through his woodworking workshops as well as his wife’s studio. Batia Eisenwasser-Jancourt’s paintings are hauntingly beautiful, mixing a more traditional style portraiture with a streaky run of paints. The effect is as if an old photograph had been left out in the rain. The cool hues of grays, blues, and pinks add a melancholy, contemplative feeling to her work.
I also love her painting of an IDF soldier in his helmet and tallit (prayer shawl) gazing up towards the heavens. I believe it is a work still in progress.
In addition to their studios (Claude refinishes old furniture), Claude gave us a small tour of his other business, a Bed & Breakfast with rooms tastefully appointed in the Arts and Crafts and Retro/Mid-Century Modern style. All are fully equipped with kitchenettes and dining areas, cable TV/DVD, Wifi, and outdoor space. All furniture is for sale as well as Batia’s artwork, so if you are staying there, feel free to purchase anything you might like as an added bonus! (www.eisenwasser-jancourt.co.il)
From there, we hit a couple pottery studios. I was especially taken with the ceramics of Tal Shahar (translates into Morning Dew in Hebrew), and bought several pieces, all very reasonably priced, including a lamp with an essential oil diffuser on the top. Tal was there to show us around, as was teaching a private class at the time. Most of the pottery studios are open by appointment for introductory classes, group classes, or free time at the wheel (talpottery.com)
It was a good thing for me that the jewelers and the clothing design shops were all closed. I would have been way too tempted. We visited a couple glass galleries – a stained glass workshop owned by a Russian immigrant who combines ancient Classical motifs into modern stained glass; a glass-blowing gallery which was exquisite. Another favorite part of this special day was meeting up with AnaLia Magen, a very talented sculptor. She led us through her studio, so much fun!!! AnaLia’s grandparents were among the original settlers/pioneers of modern day Tel Aviv. Her latest creations are a series of ceramic towers with sculpted figures adorning the structures. My absolute favorite piece is part of her own private collection and is a tribute to her ancestors and their role in the founding of Israel. She has taken photographs (her grandmother posing with Sigmund Freud; her grandfather as part of Jabotinsky’s early band of Zionists; her grandfather with Theodore Herzl) and incorporated them into the tower. Each picture includes a hand written note or penciled-in explanation. Typical to Magen’s work are cut-out windows and doors to enable the viewer to see all the detail inside each tower. There are her figures whimsically perched on the ladders and ledges of the sculpture. Very imaginative!! Her incorporation of personal history (as well as the history of Israel) is innovative and fun. She is a most delightful lady, and we can’t wait to visit her again soon.
Walking around the village taking in the art randomly placed at street side, in parks, on walls, was food for the soul. Many of the sculptures were whimsical as well as beautiful. There are numerous cafes; an art bar serving up handcrafted beer by the talented Danny Shlyfestone – also hosting eclectic concerts weekends and summer;and boutique wineries and tasting rooms. There is also a gentleman (originally from New York), who has traveled the world collecting music boxes and self-playing musical instruments of all types. He has a one-of-a kind gallery there. Although we could hardly ask for more, we decided to save the best for last: The Marcel Janco Dada Museum, open daily for a very small fee.
A small group of artists seeking refuge from the horrors of Europe from WWI through WWII found a home in Zurich, Switzerland. Janco, along with Hans Arp, Hans Richter, Hugo Ball, and others lived there collaborating on their many styles of modern art and literature. In this neutral city, they opened Cabaret Voltaire in 1916, forming the backbone of what would become the Dada Movement. They would incorporate sound poems, highly staged and theatrical impromptu dance performances, avant-garde music and art exhibitions. In later years, David Bowie would try to re-create the air of Cafe Voltaire in his many personas and musical performances. In addition to his ever-evolving painting styles, Janco designed elaborate costumes and masks for Cabaret Voltaire. He started with Cubist-Expressionist oil paintings, mixed-media collages, sculptures and reliefs, as well as publishing the first “zine,” entitled Dada.The mini magazines form a series of photography, poems, short stories, lyrical scores, and artwork of the time. Much of what survived is now on display at the Janco Museum in Ein Hod. Marcel Janco was also one of the founders of the Bauhaus movement in architecture. Several of his models can be seen in the museum. The Bauhaus style, with its gleaming white geometrical form can be seen in Tel Aviv (the White City) homes and apartments as well as in modern-day interpretations throughout all Israel.
The basement of the building houses the Dadalab, for kids aged 3-103! It was a place I know all my kids would love. What a great place to get all those creative juices flowing!!! Dress up in period costume; write and stage a performance on the circular stage; make a collage or assemblage of vintage household and industrial artifacts; type a screenplay; there was even a ‘homemade’ zoetrope made from an old pot with slits cut out on an old stereo turntable. Ingenious way to make your own ‘movies’ at home. I especially loved the sculptural reading corner. A homeschooler’s paradise! (www.jancodada.co.il)
As the afternoon progressed, we enjoyed strolling the streets and taking in both the artistic and natural beauty of this incredible village. Another wonderful day in the Land of Israel!!! Enjoy along with us: