Sharon Po lialtine
The artist in her Jerusalem apartment-studio.
Sharon Poliakine, 30, lives and works out
of a small apartment in central Jerusalem.
She devotes one room to a studio, cramped
with paintings, prints and pieces of metal.
Her hair is close-cropped and she wears a
long black shirt and black jeans early on a
Like Mr. Ben-Zvi, she is a printmaker
and painter. Both artists work part of the
time out of the Jerusalem Print Workshop.
Housed in a huge building on the edge be-
tween eastern and western Jerusalem, the
workshop has ceilings several stories high,
arched windows, marble floors, and a small
gallery. Its heavy black metal printing press-
es are decades old. The building itself was
constructed in 1871 for residences and a tile
factory. Since then it's served as a syna-
gogue, school dormitory, then sweatshop,
before becoming a space for printmakers in
Ms. Poliakine's prints are dense and del-
icate, based on interlocking, shadowy black-
and-white forms and lines. Several were on
display in a recent Israel Museum exhibi-
tion devoted to 20 years of printmaking in
Ms. Poliakine's work as a whole is gen-
erally untitled. Some of the strongest pieces
are paintings on sheets of abandoned met-
al foraged from industrial neighborhoods.
The metal provides a Mad Max, post-in-
dustrialist harshness to the softer paint, the
material's natural ridges and faults lending
the works an underlying terrain. Some of
the metal is pocked with burnt-out holes
with ragged edges, the holes becoming part
of the work.
One piece on metal, almost entirely white,
looks like a swirling snowstorm, the paint
dripping into the valleys between the tiny
metal hills. Another work is a deep, deep
red and veined, like a slice of a body. Yet an-
other seems oddly warm and hairy. Brown
paint is scraped on, surrounding a red hole;
tiny black lines crawl up the middle, like a
ladder. Part of the metal forms a sudden
"shelf' on the bottom, holding up the rest of
Her dedication to art feels total. She made
one of her paintings only an hour before her
wedding last year. Her husband works on a
crocodile farm on a moshav in the Jordan Val-
ley, where the huge reptiles are raised for
their unkosher but gourmet meat and their
exotic skins. An image of a tiny baby croco-
dile curls in some of Ms. Poliakine's work.
One half of her wedding painting is whitish,
on wood, featuring two figures. The other half
is harder, on metal, a bright yellow.
She pulls out a metal book about a foot
tall, crudely sewn together. It's a strange
mix of intimate, almost feminine, close work,
reminiscent of women's embroidery a cen-
tury ago, and sharp metal edges. The im-
ages on its pages are rendered in black and
white, close-packed scrawls imbedded with
little brains and shadowy figures in cages.
The book comes with its own wooden case,
which she also designed.
Her earlier books were palm-sized and
made of paper. She constructed them after
watching Orthodox Jews praying on buses
in Jerusalem, some holding tiny books of
psalms. "They were lost in their own worlds,"
she says. "I wanted to create something sec-
ular like that."
The results, a modern twist on a Jewish
tradition centuries old, in a way symbolize
the work of her generation. The books are a
deeply Israeli response to a culture of Jews
living in their own land. The image is one
unique to Israel, a country where the ultra-
Orthodox ride public transportation, mur-
muring prayers, while a young artist
watches, looking for new ways to interpret
the nation's culture in order to make it her