Spray-paint stencil artist Sarah Brega recently found inner peace at the unlikeliest of places — a series of Sderot bomb shelters she had decided to spruce up.
“It was really peaceful in Sderot — I picked two or three bomb shelters to decorate,” Brega said. “It was like my dream, to have this empty canvas and do whatever I want with it.”
Brega had joined six non-Jewish American peers and 12 Israelis — all predominantly graffiti artists — on a “Murality” mission called “Paint Israel: Make Art, Not War,” where they sought out artistic inspiration in spots like Sderot, Tel Aviv Herzliya, Jerusalem and Kiryat Gan.
This week, the Israeli-owned Eden Gallery here (437 Madison Ave.) is hosting near-simultaneous launch events at its New York and Tel Aviv locations, where it is featuring the work of these “Artists 4 Israel” in an exhibit entitled “Color: Correct.”
The pieces on display at New York’s Tuesday night event largely came from after the “Murality” trip, while Tel Aviv’s opening will include a makeshift project from the artists’ last day in Israel, comprised of objects they collected during the journey.
“We learned that the artists were doing this nonprofit work to support Israel, and since we’re an Israel-based gallery it seemed like a perfect fit,” said Guy Vardi, director of the gallery branch in New York.
Artists 4 Israel first came together during the Gaza war, under the leadership of artist Craig Dershowitz, who amassed a group of friends and acquaintances to make artistic signs at a 42nd Street pro-Israel rally.
“At the time it was a bunch of graffiti artists that wanted to show support for Israel,” said Dershowitz, who is now the president of the Artists 4 Israel nonprofit. “We thought if our signs were prettier than the other signs they would win attention.”
The non-Jewish artists who participated were equally enthused, including Brega, who made tinfoil stencils for the rally.
“It was amazing seeing kids on people’s shoulders — there was a unity about it,” said Brega, who had never before contributed her art to a political cause. “I completely agree with Israel having its right to exist, especially after being there.”
Within a week of that event, he decided to host a small graffiti-based exhibit for the newly formed group and said it attracted over 450 people, most of whom were non-Jews under the age of 30.
“Israel needs people like us people that want to support them, because they get a lot of bad rap and that’s just sad,” she continued. “It definitely seems like the unpopular thing to do to support Israel, but I completely support it.”
Said Dershowitz: “Artist 4 Israel is really about having this dramatic transformative effect with our work.” “In Israel we transformed bomb shelters into works of our own. Now we’re transforming this chichi gallery on Madison Avenue into a mecca for the most scandalous forms of contemporary art.”
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