Two months ago, I participated in AIPAC Policy Conference. It is always a great place to meet like-minded people who share my passion to Israel.
In one of the main booths at the venue I met the artist, Jenn Hassin.
Jenn had an incredible story of how she decided to take IDF uniform and old Kibbutz clothes and create pieces of art from them.
I personally thought it is a very cool way to use fabric. We used to think about fabric as something you cover your body with, but in fact each piece of fabric has its own story, own memory, own meaning fold into it.
When you see Jenn's art it's like each artwork talks with you, telling you the story of Israel.
I like it the concept and I thought you might like it too so...
I decided to interview Jenn about art, fashion and Israel. Here it is:
Can you talk about your art, the process of working on each piece?
My artwork has several different layers of process to it. For example, when I am making a piece about military issues, I will take old and recycled military uniforms and cut them up into tiny pieces. I then put them into a machine called a hollander beater and beat the fiber from the uniform into a pulp. I mix the fiber and pulp with water and then run a screen through the material and pull out sheets of paper. After the paper dries, I rip up the paper, sometimes writing messages within, and then fold and roll these pieces of paper. This creates a spiral, which is a symbol of life to death, beginning to end.
My work often times represents the individuals affected by various serious issues, like our men and women our die fighting for our country or the ones that take their own lives post serving. Many times I have volunteers from the community that is directly impacted by the issue I am working.
My desire to have community engagement with my work adds yet another layer, having so many hands lending to the making of the piece just makes it that much more unique and special.
My work is not just about me, but about the bigger issues that encompass us all.
How did you got exposed to Israel? What led you to create an art made of Israeli military uniform and kibbutz clothes?
I first fell in love with Israel in 2007 when I had a roommate that was Italian and Israeli. She told me about the wall and about her time visiting Israel. Later, I ended up making work inspired by The Western Wall, yet I had never actually seen it in person. That is when I got a phone call from the Veterans Outreach Coordinator with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee with an invite to visit Israel and her people. AIPAC invited me to participate at their annual Policy Conference in Washington DC to make one of my art pieces with their conference attendees. Prior to the conference, I made paper out of IDF uniforms and clothing from a kibbutz and then took that paper to the conference.
I asked people to write their answer to a question I gave them onto the paper. The question was, Why do you care about the US and Israel relationship and how will you continue to maintain that relationship?
I also invited them to write a personal message or prayer onto the piece and then we folded and rolled the paper and made a piece at the conference called Strength and Unity.
Tell us about your visit in Israel, was it the same as you expected?
I obsessed over Israel for years. I met her people before I actually did. Does this make sense? I have this bond with Israel and my work is the reflection, but the bond is special. Israel and her people were exactly what I expected and more. I especially loved the fact that everyone either directly serves in Israel, or is directly related to many people that serve. We do not have that in America, which leaves for room and a disconnection between our civilian and military populations. The understanding of service is something that I left feeling jealous about- people in Israel, they get it.
How do you see Israeli Fashion?
While in Israel, I took note of the fashion. Israel is ahead of the game in wanting quality clothing that is responsibly sourced. I appreciate that and I left Israel with a couple of outfits for my daughter who was actually still growing inside of me at the time. I also bought a pair of the most comfortable linen pants that I wish I could get pregnant and fit into again. The clothing was all made in Israel and the fabric was responsibly sourced- which seems to be common in Israel and it is definitely something you have to search for in the USA.
What is next for you?
I am moving to NYC with the family this coming August to start a graduate program. It looks like I will more than likely be attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I plan to continue pushing myself while getting my Masters in Fine Art. I want to open eyes and make people think about what my work is saying long after laying their eyes on it.
I want to create a systemic change through visual art and make a difference in our world.