For the last 30 years I’ve worked as a carver with clay and stone. I always approach a medium searching for new ways of reinventing it challenging both the medium and myself. In recent years I began adding mixed media and masonry colorants to my clay sculpture after learning about Clay Printing (a technique developed by Mitch Lyons). I begin with a clayprint which I lift onto a synthetic texturized fabric, mount on wood and add layers of mixed media. It’s a long and laborious process but it gives me the results I desire and a new way of expressing myself.
You have lived and worked in many countries. How has this influenced your work?
Our life journeys are complex and have within them the positive and the negative, which deeply influence us. On one hand living in several cultures and countries (Argentina and Israel) has profoundly enriched me; hower, experiences of immigration, oppression, and war have scarred me. Over time, in searching for my truth and identity, I have integrated and embraced all of my parts. After years of feeling like an outsider and minority, I now consider myself a citizen of the world. Our human experiences do not divide us (only labels do that) but unite us regardless of color, religion, or nationality. These are recurring themes in my work.
You have had four personal residencies in Chapala. What keeps bringing you back?
I find Chapala, the culture, the town, the lake, and the entire area, to be a peaceful and inspiring haven. As soon as I drive from the airport up towards the lake and over the mountains, I begin to feel this special energy. The times I’ve spent in Chapala have enriched me physically, emotionally, mentally and creatively. Some of my best ideas have come to me during these residencies.
What does a typical studio day look like for you when you are here? What else do you enjoy doing in Chapala?
I am not a structured artist in the sense that I allow the flow to carry me, especially when I am in Chapala. I take plenty of time for contemplation, meditation, and long walks along the lake. I always take my iPad so I can take notes, photos, and draw whenever an idea or an image inspires me. Then, several days a week I work at the studio to further explore and develop them. I enjoy taking the bus into neighboring pueblos. The ride itself is an uplifting experience for me – I love how people relate to each other in an open and friendly way. I’ve made great friends in the area. We go to concerts, art openings, and eat out. There is a never-ending list of fabulous places to eat.
What were you working on during this most recent residency?
I have a very busy life back home. I teach almost everyday and I spend as much time in my studio as I possibly can. I’m quite involved in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene, and have a very rich family and social life. When new ideas begin to tickle my creative juices, I don’t always have the time to explore and expand them the way I would like. My residency this past July 2106 was all about expanding my ideas. I brought all materials I needed to work on these ideas. The time I spent in the studio in Chapala was extremely successful and rewarding. I returned to my home studio in Oakland, CA ready to work, having solved many technical problems during my month at the residency.
Tell us about your art school and career in California.
About 30 years ago I decided to quit the corporate/business world. I wanted to be, live, and make art. I began teaching at various institutions. Over time, as my name and teaching methods became known, I was able to start my own school. I teach adults and seniors in my studio in Oakland, CA, I teach in upscale senior facilities and also at homeless seniors through Alameda County. I also teach privately in my studio or the artist’s. I taught stone carving at Pixar Animation Studios for 8 years and occasionally I’m invited to teach in other countries including workshops in stone carving, clay sculpture, mixed media, clay printing, and the business of art. I primarily show my artwork in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I have also shown in New York, Corsica and most recently Paris. That was an amazing experience, to say the least.
What advice do you have for other artists who are considering a personal residency in Mexico?
The only place I’ve spent time in Mexico is in and around Lake Chapala. I’ve had people back home worry about the dangers of going to Mexico. The truth is that I can’t remember feeling safer anyplace else. I’m a single woman and I walk around all over town and neighboring towns, feeling completely safe. Since the US currency is very strong compared to the Mexican peso it is extremely affordable to treat yourself to massages, spas, facials, pedicures, acupuncture, eating out, luxuries that I have to think twice about back home. I’ve found a doctor, a homeopath, and a masseuse – all excellent! My advice is enjoy every moment, combine your creative goals with slowing down, enjoy the area and its people, pamper yourself and relax. The residency program is run very smoothly. Cobra and her team are friendly, available, and efficient. The casitas are very well maintained and equipped. The Middle Casita, where I usually stay, is very spacious with a large open live/work studio that is full of light and centrally located.
Where can we see more of your work?
You can view more of my work on my website: Zahavasherez