Tel Aviv-based artist Esther Naor’s newest work continues to probe themes that have long absorbed her. Based on migration, deracinated traditions, and the shifting, individual experience of community and estrangement, connection and disjunction, they form the heart of her endeavor. Naor, as a resident of a country in a part of the world that is particularly knotted and turbulent, sensitively and inevitably reflects upon its current political, social, and emotional state. Multi-layered narratives, often presented as installations, it is her striking, often surprising and idiosyncratic images across a range of media that make her projects so memorable.
Naor is also determinedly personal, incorporating into her work the complex history and ethos of her family as Iraqi Jews who immigrated to Israel. Invested in the land as daily reality and as metaphor, it is this uneasy sense of place that animates her work and gives it weight. In There Wasn’t a Man, Woman, or Child I Could Lift a Finger for, a sculpture suspended from the ceiling, an all white nude female with a large cone hat clenches onto a life preserver with a despondent facial expression. In this work the viewer enters a mysterious, implausible, dark fantasy, which deals with the duality of having and losing control. The idea of “drowning” in the loss of one’s identity, whilst having the option, whether we choose to or not, to “preserve” it.
Topical in its urgency, in its transpositions of good and evil, Naor’s work often evokes a kind of magical thinking that offers solace, support, if not always rescue. In a time when reality has become increasingly unbearable, she questions the potency and impotency of art as well as the limits of human rationality.