Her art forces a closer look

Jaime Schol­nick’s work re­veals harsh re­al­ity by cov­er­ing over news photos of Gaza bomb­ings

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Carolina A. Mi­randa

From a dis­tance, the dozens of im­ages that hang from the walls at CB1 Gallery in down­town Los An­ge­les look as if they might have emerged from a highly styl­ized comic book. Lines in black, blue, yel­low and red come to­gether to form pic­tures of peo­ple, ur­ban land­scapes and ex­plo­sive ab­strac­tions. But look closer and you will see that the lat­tice of del­i­cate line work cov­ers an ar­ray of pho­to­graphs: im­ages from the Is­raeli bomb­ing of Gaza nearly one year ago show­ing wrecked ur­ban land­scapes, mourn­ing women and chil­dren pick­ing their way through the rub­ble.

Artist Jaime Schol­nick is gen­er­ally known for pro­duc­ing sculp­tures that play with ma­te­rial and form, such as the milled wood ab­strac­tions inspired by Sty­ro­foam pack­ag­ing she showed last year. But in her latest show at CB1, she takes on a far more vis­ceral topic: the Is­raeli- Pales­tinian con­flict — specif­i­cally, last sum­mer’s bomb­ings of Gaza.

The ex­hi­bi­tion’s ti­tle, “Gaza: Mow­ing the Lawn,” takes its name from a term that has been used by Is­raeli mil­i­tary strate­gists to de­scribe the ev­ery- few- years bomb­ings of Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. Schol­nick says the im­ages of the con­flict, which she saw bub­bling up in the news and in her so­cial media feeds, left her feel­ing out­raged, pow­er­less and con­flicted ( she is Jewish). Out of a need to face what she was see­ing in the photos, she be­gan draw­ing on the pic­tures — ul­ti­mately pro­duc­ing the 50 works that are now on view at CB1 through mid- July.

The L. A.- based artist took time to chat about how the se­ries be­gan, the con­tro­versy it has gen­er­ated for her with her friends and fam­ily, and the new public in­stal­la­tion in Los An­ge­les that her work method has inspired.

How did you come to these im­ages, and why did you be­gin draw­ing on them?

This was how I would doo­dle. ... It’s an ob­ses­sive way of how I process things. I’d cover my Sty­ro­foam pieces in lines as a for­mal thing. But this is the first time I worked with pho­tog­ra­phy. And when I did it, I was like, “Wait, this is ex­actly

it. We cover it up be­cause we don’t want to see it.”

This par­tic­u­lar work I came to when I saw the im­ages [ of the Gaza bomb­ings] on Face­book. A friend was shar­ing them. And I was like, “Why are you do­ing this?” And then I was like, “Wait a minute. This is hap­pen­ing in the world.”

I printed one out and started draw­ing lines over it. It re­ally made me look re­ally closely. There was one im­age that I didn’t un­der­stand, and in draw­ing over it I re­al­ized that it was a lit­tle girl reach­ing up. She’d had her foot blown off. I don’t care what your po­lit­i­cal view is on the sit­u­a­tion, but this is not OK. What does draw­ing over the im­ages do for them?

It was a way for me to honor them. By trans­lat­ing it into art, it is eas­ier to look at. Su­san Son­tag wrote about how pho­to­graphs doc­u­ment war and how they can be so easily ig­nored. But art isn’t that easy to ig­nore. With these im­ages, I’m se­duced by the sheer line of it. Then you look and look and you start to un­cover depth. You see the im­age un­der­neath.

There’s one im­age of a girl, and her eyes are black and blue. If I had been paint­ing this, I wouldn’t have made those black and blue eyes. It would have been too much. But that’s the re­al­ity of it. So for me, with these, it’s the de­ci­sion of what to show and what not to re­veal. I cover it up be­cause we don’t want to look at it. But it’s a screen. You still have to look through. A num­ber of the im­ages show ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tions: bod­ies, the wounded, in­jured and dead chil­dren. What was it like to spend hours star­ing at this as you worked?

It was cathar­tic in a way. It was also sort of like a ban­dage. It was like lines and wrap­ping them up. And pro­tect­ing them. I don’t know ex­actly. It was so emo­tional. It makes them eas­ier to look at. What has the re­ac­tion been?

I had them in my stu­dio, and peo­ple would say, “What are these? ... They’re beau­ti­ful, but they’re re­ally dark.” The most sur­pris­ing part has been the re­ac­tion from other artists. One friend was like, “Why are you do­ing this? Why would you do some­thing so dark?” And I said, “Why would we avoid this?”

Some­one told me, “You know these are all staged.” I find that in­ter­est­ing be­cause there are Holo­caust de­niers out there too.

Forty- nine of 50 im­ages in the in­stal­la­tion show the de­struc­tion in Gaza, and one shows a group of Is­raelis at a so­cial gath­er­ing watch­ing the bomb­ings. Were you con­cerned this would give an im­bal­anced por­trayal of the con­flict?

I’ve got­ten a lot of flak for it — show­ing that scene of the pic­nic. I felt like I had to in­clude it. I won’t name names, but there were art- ists who said to me, “Oh, Jaime, there’s two sides to ev­ery story.” Or they’ll say, “Why isn’t there just as many im­ages of Is­raelis?” And I’m like, well, be­cause it didn’t hap­pen. [ In 2014,] you have more than 2,000 Pales­tini­ans killed, with 1,500 of them civil­ians, and you com­pare that to 66 sol­diers? The fact is there weren’t as many

ca­su­al­ties on the Is­raeli side.

You are Jewish. What is­sues has this pro­ject raised for you on a per­sonal level?

Yes, I was born Jewish. I was very into the re­li­gion when I was very young. I loved the fast­ing, and I loved all of it. I took it re­ally se­ri­ously. But as I started study­ing and get­ting older, I was like, “What do you mean we’re the cho­sen peo­ple? Does that mean other peo­ple aren’t cho­sen?”

I can’t talk about this with my fam­ily. It would not be OK. I didn’t in­vite them to the open­ing. But I know that I’m not alone. I know that there are enough peo­ple who are Jewish who feel this way too. We just don’t hear from them.

I un­der­stand that you’re us­ing a sim­i­lar tech­nique — pho­to­graphs cov­ered in lines — for a public art com­mis- sion for the L. A. Metro.

Yes! I got the com­mis­sion at the Expo Cren­shaw sta­tion. We are work­ing with the com­mu­nity on the pho­to­graphs that will be fea­tured. It’s a re­ally happy piece: 4 feet tall and 200 feet long.

I’m work­ing with the pho­tog­ra­pher Sally Coates. She gets my point of view. I’m also do­ing this com­mu­nity ac­tion with the Right­Way Foun­da­tion [ a non­profit based in Leimert Park that works with area foster youth]. On July 10, we’re go­ing to give away 15 cam­eras. Foster youth can come and check out a cam­era and they have 24 hours to shoot.

These kids live there. They’ll be privy to things that I would never be privy to. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to see­ing their pic­tures.

Will you con­tinue to work in this style?

Right now I’m see­ing where it goes. I’m re­ally in­trigued by it.

Jaime Schol­nick

WHAT AP­PEARS to be a draw­ing is ac­tu­ally a photo of an­guish in Gaza.

Jaime Schol­nick

“MOW­ING the Lawn” is an Is­raeli mil­i­tary term to de­scribe as­saults on Gaza and used as ti­tle of show, which in­cludes al­tered photo above.

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