Boaz Vaadia - About the Artist - Articles, Awards, and Reviews



"Sculptor 'draws' from earth"
Jan Sjostrom - Daily News Arts Editor
Palm Beach Daily News - January 3rd, 1993

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 six-figure prices.

"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 that endure.

Vaadia's work is known to anyone who drives over the Royal Park Bridge on the way to Palm Beach. His 10-ton sculpture "Avram 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 husband, Murray.

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," he said.

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.

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