Anai Salem: journey of vulnerability

For Anai Salem creating art is similar to a perpetual search for love and of falling in love itself, a journey full of vulnerability.  At some point, you realize that doing art or being an artist is not only looking for love, or becoming enamored all the time, it is also getting hurt and, beyond that, confronting intensified emotions.

Regarding getting hurt, Anai recalls her unexpected stay in Paris because of the events that took place on October 7th. The artist admits that during that time, she couldn’t embrace creating art, something she had done since an early age, starting with drawing on the walls of her home in Tel Aviv. Displaced, she witnessed children playing peacefully, contrasting starkly with the images of children whose childhoods were taken away from them in Gaza and Israel. A couple of weeks later, she came across a picture from the ruins of the kibbutzim in Israel, which captured chickens sitting on a burned out car.

The innocence of children and chickens

The innocence of the children and the chickens draw a thematic line to her current work, which she is completing at the residency. The artist sews rubber chickens, typically used for dogs to chew and bite. She transforms these toys by shaping them on her own feet. She mentions the uneven structure of the surface, which gives spiky sensations on the skin. This feeling is likened to the stiffness experienced when your leg falls asleep after prolonged idleness. When trying to stand up and place the weight of your body on your feet—the hardest part is proceeding to walk. Anai compares this sentiment to regaining naive hope and continuing after a tragedy.

Aesthetically modified chickens hint at the viewer, drawing attention to the idea that something is wrong. Aluminum statues of chicken heads sticking out of cars and blueberries scattered around create a whimsical playground. The artist defines it as the impression of playing games that have already failed.

images by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by artist

The last work she created in her homeland, called “Images-Fireflies,” symbolizes the communication between insects that illuminate the darkness as a metaphor for hope amidst the world’s struggles. In retrospect, leaving her homeland to flee horror and violence, Anai recognizes the naivety of this work.

Anai’s artistic roots

Even Anai acknowledges the roots of her artworks stem from painting, she feels restricted by the depiction. She draws parallels between making installations and drawing. As the intuitive line goes three dimensional, the space becomes a canvas. “I think painters are able to achieve something on canvas that I may not, for me the space is the canvas.” The movement between lines, shapes and angles are compared to a dance. Anai emphasizes the vulnerability of art through “taking a piece of her heart” and putting it on a plate for people to view and to talk about.

Inside the rubber chickens, beneath the layer of the plaster, lie grass seeds. Despite having planted them, the artist never knows if they will grow. Upon returning to the residency after the group show in London, the artist observed the grass sprouting through the cracks in the plaster. She was amused and attempted to break the plaster to allow the grass to grow more. Embodying the notion that even in the most challenging circumstances, hope and passion can flourish.

Written by Lisa Savchuk


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