The Mayan Moth Flies at Dusk, 4'x4', metal outdoor tabletop, townhouse mantlepiece wood (formerly damaged by housefire and waterlogged), macrame lamp shade, speakers, dry roses, dictionary pages ("moth"; "mother"), window latches, rope, wire
Ello 2017 Creative Excellence, Statement for Razi Mizrahi
Crisis anyone? Ello is a relentlessly cheerful place, but let your eyes drift anywhere outside its four sweet letters, into the world, and there are signs of storms brewing—literally as close to a sh#*!storm as unchecked toilet-tweeting, extreme economic disparity, global environmental despair, and right-wing xenophobes or mobs with tiki torches can get us.
Across history, artists have seldom held the reigns of power, and yet Ello- must surely agree that the view outside would be far more egalitarian and shadowed with far fewer crises today if, once upon a time, artists had been in charge. At this point, what's a well-intended Ello-citizen—patron, curator, artisan, or artiste—to do? Where can we best direct the focus of our social consciousness?
In her art-making methods, Razi Mizrahi wrestles with these questions. As artists and citizens, we are all invited to do so. One part of the problem of "doing" art today is how to take a Hippocratic approach to art-making—Do No Harm. In Mizrahi's work, this means avoiding the manufacturing and consumption streams of new art supplies. By repurposing discarded, broken, obsolete, and abandoned objects, Mizrahi's small-footprint approach results in complex compositions, some as small as 16"x16" and many as large as 6'x6'. By relying primarily on found objects and cast-offs, Mizrahi is both limited by the serendipity of discovering useful material on the streets and freed from the conventions of traditional art-making, by which the medium functions in service to the artwork's subject matter, rather than, as in Mizrahi's work, the media being the subject matter. By inverting the norms of artistic decision-making—that is, having little control over the type of material that goes into a given piece of her artwork but extensive license to abstract and manipulate everyday, familiar objects in her compositions—Mizrahi establishes a tension that forces every piece to be, on some level, a protest--a bulwark against certain assumptions about the world we all inhabit. For example, a small protest against the assumption that damaged items are useless. As with people (notably, elderly persons, physically or mentally challenged persons, or those who are imprisoned), great beauty can be found under every surface and value is very often a question of context. Or, a protest against the reflexive habits of consumer waste--buying and discarding as a matter of convenience--as if the only concern were whether the actor can afford to be wasteful and not whether the environment can "afford" a globe of prodigious consumers. Or, as a final example, the assumption that the efforts single individual will be so minuscule, in the face of such overwhelming social crises, that her efforts are themselves a waste; useless. On the contrary, eastern philosophies teach the deep interdependencies in the world, such that one cannot, with that awareness, comfortably waste even a single grain of rice. And, from Mizrahi's ethical perspective, the traditions of Tikkun Olam—the obligation to strive to leave the world in better condition than we found it—are not really an "effort," and certainly not part of a cost-benefit analysis comparing them to the "non-effort" of doing nothing in the face of crisis. Mizrahi's habits of art-making, as well as her finished artworks, embody the optimistic worldview that only through the daily Hippocratic practices of individuals can long-term and effective change occur. If beautiful art is in the eye of the beholder, then "excellence" can only be found in the sustained intentions of the artist. For these reasons, her commitment to responsible art-making and the artwork she produces are deserving of special attention and award support.
1. A Sundial in Orion's Sky, 18"x18"
2. Anura Ascending, 6'x6'
3. The Mayan Moth Flies at Dusk, 4'x4'