Solo show catalog text, Haifa Museum, 2006
Leafing through a family album is a highly charged experience familiar to us all. Our quandaries and dilemmas desperately seek answers in the Album’s mute pages. At times, it seems as though our memory of a happy, carefree childhood is shattered when confronted with the feelings evoked in us as we turn the pages.
Shira Glezerman’s works touch upon this very issue. The painting Pola and Shira, for instance, features a four-year-old girl in festive clothes, standing on a living room table as if she were an object on display. Next to her, on the sofa, sits her proudly smiling grandmother. It is a moment many of us have experienced – being asked by our parents to recite, dance, or show off our talent to unfamiliar guests. This memory often involves pain, surrender, or feelings of distress and embarrassment related to our attempt to please our parents.
Another work, Dan, also based on a photograph from a family album, depicts a boy dressed as Superman standing on a chair. The costume is over-sized, making him look ridiculous and pitiful, the complete opposite of the omnipotent superhero. According to the artist, the painting was influenced by the dwarf paintings of the 17th century Spanish artist Velázquez, although the dwarfs he painted were, for the most part, adults. Glezerman says that she related to “the strong feeling of misery emanating from the image”.Her point of view is also empathic, intended neither to ridicule nor to caricaturize the depicted figure.: “Like the Infanta in Velázquez’s Las Meninas”, she says, “Dan appears uncomfortable and embarrassed in his costume, put on display as an object for the viewer to behold.”
Glezerman conjures up images from the family album, exploring familial situations through the act of painting – traditional, classical painting that converses with its history. Her retrospective gaze examines her childhood memories, generating brittle, elusive images that are like sand slipping through one’s fingers. The figures’ eyes are often shut – a physical gesture that runs like a narrative thread through many of her works, including self portraits, and the portraits of both her grandmothers. The artist deliberately creates an elusive reality, so that it is unclear whether the figures are resting, comatose or have fallen into an eternal sleep.
The painting Tamar, Josh and Rebecca portrays three young, adorable children asleep in the backseat of a car. The landscape seen through the window is nondescript and insubstantial. Despite the children’s sweet faces, the eye is made uneasy by the sight, which evokes a sense of loss. A similar feeling is evoked by the painting Nahar and Ud, where two children are seen lying on the ground. Without explicitly admitting it, Glezerman hints at a disaster. Alongside the recurring motif of the shut eyes, the sense of dissociation and isolation is reinforced by the fact that the figures in all the paintings are located in an undefined place, which is detached from any kind of familiar setting. Asked whether her paintings are real portraits or echoes of distant childhood memories, the artist replied: “In my self-portraits I try to fold back into my childhood bed, to return to a primal, protected place that existed before the violation of order, while being conscious that this world no longer exists.”