ISSN 1545-2859




I came from a strong Catholic community in the North of Holland where most people were Protestant. So it was like an enclave (a little bit comparable to a Jewish ghetto). My educational background was a librarian specializing in childrenís literature and education. I have been writing my whole life. Currently I have a weekly column in a Womanís magazine about puberty (I have two children, ages sixteen and eighteen). 

My last regular job was head of the library of a theatre academy. I started organizing performances for children at a center for parents and children. I created my own Foundation, Artstream. I have organized many other cultural activities like concerts, exhibitions, and workshops; for example, storytelling. I was always intrigued with artists who were not necessarily famous but created because it was their passion. At that time I spoke mainly about performers, musicians, singers, and storytellers who dared to approach the podium though they knew they were not brilliant. I felt their fear, their uncertainty along with a strong desire to perform and the happiness it gave them. This combination of feelings gave special meaning to their performances, which touched me immensely. Their vulnerability was so present that the whole audience could feel it and almost made me cry. You saw not only the performance but also the person and that is what drove me to create a podium for these people, who held regular jobs, but at the same time made us a part of them, their passion. 

I always liked to go to exhibitions, but art was not one of my main things until I met YaŽl through a good friend who had been a volunteer in her kibbutz a long time ago and had kept in contact with YaŽl.  When my husband went to visit YaŽl he was overwhelmed by her work and stupefied that we had never heard of her in Holland. When he came home with her catalogues, he told me that this could be a mission for me and for Artstream. Since then both my husband and I have been very involved with YaŽlís projects. When I went to visit YaŽl in her studio for the first time, I was as much intrigued by her work as with her personage. It was a revelation to me to hear all about her work, her life and her fighting spirit. The parallels I discovered between her work and her life were as much a surprise to her as they were for me. My being a complete stranger created the right distance to observe her as an artist, a woman, a mother, a wife, and a friend. 

Later I concluded that as a writer I was mostly interested in people, in what is going on inside their minds and how they shape who they are. Without judgment, just observing how one person lives his life I find every person interesting and if I do my best I can go very far in understanding why people took the steps they took. Every person I meet is like a mirror to me. YaŽl was suddenly there, she opened herself to me, although she couldnít explain why. I mean, here I am this Dutch woman who isnít even from the art world, what could she gain? But she had a strong intuition and believed in me for some reason. We have formed a bond, which is almost inexplicable. Our working together has brought us many miracles. I have learned a lot from her and meeting her has broadened my eyes to many things. The way I look at my surroundings and at art has changed and awakened my love for photography. 

Photography for me is another way of observing reality and showing that there are many ways to record a subject or surroundings depending upon your perspective and how willing you are to make contact. The more you focus on one thing the more the world opens up which is endless. The funny thing is that there is no pressure to do these things. I do what comes naturally to me in that it becomes something that I cannot NOT do. It is there always. 

My more concrete aim is to introduce YaŽl to Holland, as well to other countries like the United States, for example. I would be her agent, but the word doesnít really fit me. I donít know the right way to promote and sell her art; I donít know how to connect to the ART-world as a salesperson, but once people are interested I am very good at selling the many talents of YaŽl. I can only do it by an inner impulse and take my steps when I feel it is right and honest. Most of the time I meet people on my path and things happen. But of course I want to do big projects with her and show the world her qualities and her energetic way of working.

It took me a long time to write her book, to finally feel how to give shape to what I felt. I received good criticism. Since we have started with our Oerol-project, which was a big success, I have a strong starting point to approach publishers in Holland.

Mia: Pauline, in your book you wrote (and I am paraphrasing):

We went to admire her sculpture ďWindowĒ in the Presidential forest, near Jerusalem. A sharp square has been hacked out in the unwieldy, primitive sculpture, through which I was supposed to be witness of a beautiful view across the valley, as YaŽl explained. It was a window to the valley and the city, the window of the President. I did my best to understand YaŽl, but her message did not come across at all. When gazing into the distance I automatically sagged through my knees and then it finally dawned on me. It was as if I had focused the lens of my camera. I suddenly saw crystal clear what she wanted to bring home to me: the valley came towards me in the right proportions, in its full splendor. At that moment I realized YaŽl was much smaller than I was and that the sculpture was based on her own perspective. She instantly recognized what happened and from that moment onwards nothing could come between our relationship anymore. How symbolic: I managed to find the right balance between the person and visual artist YaŽl by attempting to understand ďWindowĒ, only because I was prepared to sag through my knees.

When you say, How symbolic: I managed to find the right balance between the person and visual artist YaŽl by attempting to understand ďWindowĒ, only because I was prepared to sag through my knees can explain what you mean? What is the symbolism that you discovered? Are you saying that you saw through Yaleís eyes? 

Pauline: I had been listening to YaŽlís stories about her life, her work, her wisdom for more than two days. She fascinated me, but until that moment I felt like an outsider, a visitor; I wasn't sure why I was there.  I felt the same hesitation from her towards me. I saw a woman talking; I saw her art and that was it. But then I suddenly realized how and why YaŽl had created her work of art with so much vision at this particular spot. I envisioned her working with that block of stone from the forest, knowing exactly what she was going to do, why it had to be at that one spot, what she wanted to show. For a moment I felt I had seen through her eyes. The work of art became much more than a beautiful shape. I understood more about the process of creation, her process, in a way I had never experienced before. And because she felt exactly at that moment that I saw what she meant, there was created a bond between us. We laughed exuberantly. And I knew from then on if I were prepared to really step into her world, find a right balance, in a modest way (symbolically: sagging through my knees), to open myself to the person she is and the artwork she makes, I would be offered a unique chance to enter the world of a very talented and honest artist as well as a great person and friend.

Mia: I also like what you wrote here:

The notion of ďbeautyĒ preoccupies me. The more I examine the sculptures, the more
new aspects I discover and the greater the beauty disclosed to me. The background of
YaŽl is totally different from mine. Nevertheless, when delving into our lives, I discover
an increasing number of common aspects and recurring themes in both our lives.

What are some of the common aspects and recurring themes in your life compared to YaŽlís -- besides a love of art?

Pauline: I was brought up in a strong catholic community, comparable in a way to her Jewish surrounding. I also had a strong mother and a father who stayed in the background. Motherhood has always been a theme in my life, although differently from YaŽlís, because my mother was not the warm Mediterranean type, not affectionate but rather distant. YaŽlís soft inside connects with my soft outside. Her strength connects with my inner strength, so we roll over the same life themes, but from a different perspective, which is why we understand each other so well. The eternal strive for balance on the personal sphere, to overcome the inner dualism. I recognize her fear and solitude, not knowing where to belong but never giving up. Her bond with nature that came naturally to her but for me it was something completely missing in my youth and only later in life came to me strongly almost in a spiritual way. We belong nowhere but anywhere where we are we can enjoy things completely. For instance, our sense of humor, the urge to understand the world, what is happening and why, always looking for explanations, knowing that there is a power which we cannot know. YaŽl paid me a big compliment when she said: ďThe way you write about my sculptures is the same way as I sculpt them.Ē

Mia: The section on Buenos Aires in which you describe a ďthree-week marathonĒ totally fascinated me. Especially about the letter B, or Bet in Hebrew.

During 21 days, 12 hours a day, including weekends, YaŽl hammered her vision into the heart of the rock. It was impossible to separate the artist from the stone. She was fascinated by the prospects in the belly of the stone. She referred to her search for the Bet as if it were a delivery of a baby, or at least a long forgotten treasure waiting to be returned to its old patron: the public eye.Ē YaŽl possesses the gift to be receptive to her environment through the genesis of her work of art, which brings about a special communication process between the sculptor, the stone and the witnesses. Watching her in action with stone offers the best possible location theatre for the spectator. The result is a non-stop-performance, a dialogue staged by YaŽl and the stone.

In fact, one of YaŽlís sculptures is aptly entitled, ďDialogue.Ē I think friendship always brings about some kind of change, whether good or bad. In your relationship with YaŽl, I get the impression that her vision and goals are in line with yoursóto promote and introduce YaŽlís work to the world. But what are your own artistic aims, goals? 

Pauline: My first aim is to have my book: ďStones with a human heartĒ published in countries as The Netherlands, Israel, The US, Canada, may be France and Germany.

Then Iíd like to be able to do more projects like the Oerol Project that we are presently involved with in Holland. The way she creates a work of art on the spot, together with the people who it is meant for, is in my opinion unique and how we deal with that together as a team, I find very inspiring and artistically interesting for me as well.

Concerning my writing, I have plans to write a book about our project on the island and enliven it with a selection of the photographs that I took. Either that or I will add a chapter about this adventure in the book. 

I experience my position in life mainly as that of an observer. I am continuously observing my surroundings and translate what I see within myself. By looking closely to another person and trying to understand why he or she is acting in this or that way, I learn about myself. Behind all the ugliness I see around me I can always find something of beauty. In one way, because I find the same ugliness also present in myself, so how can I judge another person? In another way I discover that every person is different in an interesting way if I take the time to really see it. To empty my mind I have to write my thoughts down, and by writing a new process starts, because from my so-called unconsciousness completely new insights bubble up, while I formulate my words. I speak to myself, try to find a special touch which is may be universal, recognizable to other people. When I wrote my book about YaŽl I literally felt pregnant, my body was telling me that I was creating. It was such a special sensation, so I decided never to stop writing anymore. I like to write columns, because here I can use humor to tell something about everyday life with a little distance. For me it is essential to be able to laugh about the misery we usually create for ourselves. It is my strongest weapon in life, but may be also be my trap. So I have many ideas about books I want to write, that are mostly build up by columns. For example to ďpaintĒ my mother, the special character she was. I have a lot of ďrawĒ material in my pc and when the time is ripe I will make it complete. 

With my photographs I go through a comparable process. I like to focus on in nature, close-ups, to lift them out of their context and present a new composition, which one usually doesnít notice. I adore tree trunks, but also the sculptures that can be found in trees and the feeling they express to me. I try to catch that, to match them with a certain state of mind that I recognize within myself. But also details of objects, the beauty of a blanket, partly hidden in the sand with the shapes created by its pleats. I see everywhere the most beautiful compositions in nature and in insignificant objects. Or just a road of asphalt with special structure everywhere, because of all that has run over it in time. I can also see humor here in so many things that I come across. A peel of an orange, carelessly thrown away by some person in the green grass suddenly looks like the top piece of a bikini. 

In my perception it is all about ďSeeingĒ in the broadest sense and one can only really see through making contact, without passing a judgment and although one only sees fragments it is still an endless world one steps into. Writing or shooting pictures (and film) is for me a way to express what I see, and, to be honest, mainly to be seen myself.

Mia: In one of the emails I had asked you to tell me more about your bird photo. I immediately gravitated toward that photo because it intrigued me. I knew it was a bird, but I didnít know whether it was the skeletal remains of a bird, a sculpture, or what. It also intrigued me because it looked so dejected and sad.

Pauline: The photo was taken in Israel on the roof where YaŽl later created her ďSundialĒ. When I saw the immense roof space it was totally barren, like a concrete desert and very ugly. With my camera I was desperately looking for something that had to be beautiful, so I almost crawled on the floor to look at the structure, the lines in the concrete. People were looking at me like I was crazy. I had to be convinced that wherever you are there is always beauty around, if you take the effort to see. But of course here also it is a sour form of beauty, because this tender bird died in the hot fluid. I was so surpised to see the picture out of the context. It was like a dove then to me, the symbol of peace in this country at war. I didnít see anything like that when I took the picture. It was like a miracle, a gift, a sign and the thought consoled me that at least after a long time somebody stood still by the suffering of this bird, at that moment when it wanted to escape, but got stuck. A moment before this innocent creature didnít know it was flying towards its death and we never know. It suddenly overcomes you. Sometimes unseen. For me Sundial is a memorial to this bird, although nobody will know that, besides me. What also struck me was the white glimmering around the bird, which reminds me of a saint. Even in death is beauty, it is a theme that occupies me.

Mia: Here where you wrote, As long as I have known YaŽl I have been trying to find answers to where she conjures up the power to create huge sculptures such as ďCloud,Ē ďCaesarea GateĒ ďBiblical LionĒ , and others. The greater the challenge, the greater her fighting spirit, it seems. She gets her teeth in a project, like a lioness, only to let go when the work is completed.

I must tell you, I wondered the same thing about where her fierce determination, direction and energy come from. I think it must be from her tremendous spirit. Have you any more thoughts on this after observing her all these years? Do you assist in any way with her projects by critiquing her or giving her ideas?

Pauline: I tried to explain this in the book. To me it is a combination of things. Her mother pumped into her this enormous confidence to achieve anything you want. Nothing is impossible. Then it is her uncertainty, the feeling that she can always do better. She has an extreme urge to serve, also while making a sculpture. When everybody around her is already very satisfied, she is not. She goes on until she is exhausted, before she herself is satisfied. She always gives too much of herself and nobody else can stop that process. It is part of her culture to go far beyond her limits. It is a power that never stops because she will never be satisfied. There is always more to do, more to conquer. The urge to express herself never stops. It is a question of life and death. And then her bond with nature, which causes the strong belief that in the end she always accomplishes something good if she listens to the laws, the basis of her tremendous spirit.

Oerol Project
YaŽl Artsi

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