Growing up on a farm in Israel, Boaz Vaadia
watched his father till the soil with an old-fashioned mule-drawn plow.
Vaadia didn't follow in his father's footsteps and become a farmer.
But his family's connection with the earth never left him.
Vaadia expresses his love of the land
in stone. Now, the farm boy-turned sculptor has some works that command
"My father and mother had an incredible
love of the earth," said the 41 year-old New York-based artist.
"They really worked the land to provide for their basic needs.
That's still the strongest thing I deal with today, that primal connection
of man to earth. It's in the materials that I use, the environments
I make and the way I work."
About 14 of Vaadia's sculptures are included
in a show opening Thursday at Helander Gallery, 350 S. County Road.
The show runs through Jan. 28.
Connections are important to Vaadia. His
serene and solid stone figures are three-dimensional meditations on
the links between man and the earth, parent and child, master and dog.
Recently, Vaadia has begun integrating architectural elements into his
sculptures, investigating the connections between people and their habitats.
Vaadia's multilayered sculptures look
ancient, as though centuries of wind or water had chiseled them out
of the rocks. His materials are commonplace, durable stones, mainly
bluestone and slate and an occasional boulder. Vaadia cares about things
Vaadia's work is known to anyone who drives
over the Royal Park Bridge on the way to Palm Beach. His 10-ton sculpture
with Dog and Ten Lambs" is on a two-year loan to the
City if West Palm Beach. The sculpture was designed for the site.
A second Vaadia sculpture has found a
home at the Norton Gallery of Art in West Palm Beach. The museum recently
received a gift of one of Vaadia's smaller sculptures, a bronze called
"Zur with Dog."
The gift was donated by Selma Robinson of Palm Beach in memory of her
When he was a child collecting bones on
his father's land and assembling them into skeletons, Vaadia realized
he wanted to become a sculptor. Because he was dyslexic, he found it
easier to express himself in three dimensions than in words.
The artist left Israel and came to New
York in 1975, aided by a grant from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.
But even the Big Apple's glass skyscrapers and concrete sidewalks could
not sever Vaadia's connection with nature. Within a few months of his
arrival, he made a startling discovery: cities are as natural a home
to man as hives are to bees.
He began picking up pieces of curbstone,
window slabs and shingles and taking them back to his studio to use
for his sculptures. In time, he notices how the quarry workers had mined
the stones following the rock's natural lines. That gave him an idea.
He started stacking the stones in layers, working in harmony with the
artistry of nature.
Like nature, Vaadia works patiently. He
shapes the layers with his chisel then stacks them carefully, finding
a natural balance before he fastens them together with rods and glue
to make them safer and more permanent.
Initially, Vaadia's works were all abstracts.
He was fascinated by the figure but thought that he had nothing to contribute
that hadn't already been done better by Rodin and Moore. Instead, he
concentrated on mastering his materials.
About seven years ago, Vaadia switched
from abstracts to figures. He began to see new possibilities on layering.
"After about 15 years of doing abstract work, I realized something
about layering that had something to do with the layers and layers of
knowledge I had picked up through the years. The way I understand these
things and grow is almost like layering," he said.
The shift from abstract to figurative
work did wonders for Vaadia's career. "It suddenly opened up such
a wide range of people. I was shocked. It was like going from a few
people responding to my work to everyone from truck drivers to old ladies,"
Vaadia's work is very popular in Palm
Beach, said Bruce Helander, co-owner of the Helander Gallery. "His
prices keep going up. They've appreciated 100 percent since we first
started showing him six years ago," he said.
Vaadia is represented by three major galleries.
His art is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York, the Hakone Open-air Museum in Japan, the Tel Aviv Museum in Israel
and other museums. Among the private collectors who have purchased Vaadia's
work are Martin Margulies of Miami and Stephen Levin of Palm Beach.
Vaadia is thankful for his success and
the freedom it has given him to work. But it hasn't changes his back-to-basics
approach to art. The lessons he learned as a child back in the hills
of his homeland remain in the fundamentals of his work. "I work
with nature as an equal partner," he said.