I have looked to art as a filtering mechanism ever since my childhood, and my emigration to Israel from Croatia in 1948 with my mother and sister. My creative practice allows me to visualize, from a distance, the pain, destruction and suffering of my childhood. I use painting and drawing as a means to build both imaginary and real bridges between my memories of the past and my hopes for the future. My artistic concerns and consciousness, therefore, are always informed by the forces that disrupt, destroy, and disunite people, cultures and religions.
I began painting wall-sized murals on vinyl in 2001, as an attempt to register my shock and sorrow at a world inflicted by war, ethnic struggles, and global unrest. The murals mix techniques used in historical mural painting with the large scale format of billboard advertising. Using collage and digital printing in addition to painting, I am attempting to combine personal memories of disaster with images of more recent global confrontations. Although these first murals were inspired by my experience surviving and observing the calamities brought on by the present world of conflict, including the Holocaust, and more recently, September 11th, they are also a means by which I had hoped to call attention to the relationships between progress and destruction throughout history.
Over the years, I have found that the relationships I observed proved relevant not only to human conflict, but to environmental concerns, prompting me to later create a body of work in response to the intrusive impact that man’s modern advance has had on the natural habitats of other species. Collage has always been a major element of my work, as it represents an archaeology of individual and intimate feelings. The different feelings invoked within the different parts of the larger collage pieces are contradictory: feelings of anxiety and horror at witnessing a depiction of disaster, and safety and peace when reflecting on the unending cycles of seasons and life. Exploring collage in greater depth through paintings, drawings, and sculpture, I investigate the clash between the natural world and the manmade, as well the fragility of all animal life in the face of human intervention and conflict.
While the sources for my work are deeply personal, my use of animals as subject matter serves as a metaphor that can allow the work to resonate with viewers on a more universal level. Anthropomorphism is the ascription of human qualities to nonhuman things. Ascribing human qualities to animals has been a device used by storytellers throughout history, perhaps as a way to make the stories more accessible by keeping them from being able to be interpreted about the failings or success of only a particular person or people. I hope that the lessons I have learned from living through this specific, turbulent time in human history can be passed along intact in my work, regardless of a viewer’s familiarity with my past.
Tamar Hirschl was born in Zagreb, Croatia and lives and works in New York, NY and Tel Aviv, Israel. Her work primarily deals with the effects of political unrest, human conflict and urbanism on the environment. Her work was exhibited during the summer of 2014 at the Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art, in her first solo exhibition in Israel, The Testimony of the Deer. Past solo exhibitions include those at the Queens Museum; the Hebrew Union College JIR Museum; Lincoln Center (all New York, NY); the Mizel Museum (Denver, CO); The Philadelphia Art Alliance; the Zagreb Museum Center; and the Mestrovic National Gallery (Split, Croatia). Group exhibitions include those at NurtureArt (Brooklyn, NY); the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and The Synagogue for the Arts (both New York, NY); the Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans, LA); the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art; the 51st Venice Biennale; and the 9th International Istanbul Biennial, among others. Her work is included in the public collections of the Queens Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum, the William J. Clinton Library, and the Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art.