A Story of Life and Art
by Andrea Dasha Reich
There is one element that I feel becomes more and more evident as I get older and that is the history of DNA that is imbedded in me and can be traced back for centuries, resonating in my creativity endlessly. There are many times that I feel an almost invisible hand guiding me in my work, sometimes it is as if colors take over my whole being... it could be compared to an African dance that sucks you into a frenzy!
The only direct DNA that I'm aware of goes back for 150 years or so, not counting the thousands of years of Jewish DNA in my family's history. From patching the history of these past centuries I can clearly see where "me" is coming from; the craft of texture, fabric, color composition, the love of art and inventiveness that has run through the veins of the women of my family for all this time.
My great, great grandmother on my mothers side was an amazing basket weaver and a great businesswoman. She was also a widowed mother to 10 children and through it brought all of them to be successful merchants in clothing, accessories, and various art forms. They all traveled the world, bringing merchandise to and from all the corners of the earth, loving what they were doing and always being inventive in making things new and interesting. Then the tragedy of World War II struck and my family, being Jewish, lost everything. Most of all, I lost all of them, including the tradition of this amazing family. The stories that I heard from my mother and father continually as a child are engrained in my mind along with the imaginative, visual reconstruction of what were the most important parts of the works that have unfortunately been lost to ruin. However, thanks to DNA, the things that were most important in their lives were safely imbedded in me.
The creativity in me started to bloom in my early teenage years. First in acting at age 9 (in which I wasn't greatly talented), and then on to trying out many various art forms. I grew up reflecting on my mother's excellent paintings and toy and puppeteer designs that surrounded our home. My mother's friends, who were mostly artists and designers, were always creating something as well as Bauhaus minimalistic clothing for me, down to the last button (it sounds great, but it was not fun for a young child who wanted ruffles!). The effects of these surroundings had a greater consequence later in my life. And as much as I did not want to admit it on the surface in that time, there was this very natural force that guided me into color, texture, and endless fantasy and experimentation. It got a good hold on me and has not let go since.
Living in Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe was a daily feast for my eyes. I was very young and always known for bumping into things on the street as my head was always looking up at the architecture of buildings. Prague has the most preserved architecture, from Byzantine to Bauhaus (no wonder that after not being able to be Brigitte Bardot, I made a turn into the love of architecture and art). My life was then interrupted and my family and I were whisked away to another continent, Asia Middle East (with my Bauhaus wardrobe, I really fit in!).
Living in Israel was also a feast for me, but with my soul still in Europe, it took quite a while to get adjusted to such a drastic change. The surroundings there were the perfect mix of culture that reflects in my work today; Bauhaus architecture with Middle East colors and texture, all a mix of super new and super ancient. Here is where the total absorption of my love of art fell into place.
I was very fortunate to have mentors from all different parts of the world that each influenced me in different ways. The first real push and direction came from a teacher in a kibbutz in Israel that really helped me in realizing that art was my calling. I would sit with him long into the nights, listening to hyenas howl and to his inspirational pep talks about art... I was 15 then.
Another great inspirer in my life was Moshe Rosenthalis who was from Russia (and is a well known artist in Europe today). He released in me my passion for color and taught me to have control of it so that I was able to orchestrate colors, rather than the colors orchestrating me. Until today, I can still hear his voice in the back of my head saying "Don't be afraid, it's all there, just let go".
The other artist who had a great impression on me was my German professor at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem; she had been a student of the Bauhaus school herself. We had a lot of arguments and disagreements as she had a generous amount of German discipline in her and exercised it on me continuously, which left me with a very regimented way of thinking about my practice and later on in life became tools for my success.
Bezalel's classrooms were situated on the top of a mountain in Jerusalem and the Arab soldiers were on the bottom of the hill. Shooting sounds were a usual background in our classrooms; it is amazing to me today how little we paid attention to them. One day we snuck over the border into a totally dilapidated mosque that was completely inlaid and painted with the most beautiful blue ceramics and magnificent motifs from the Ottoman Empire. It was an unforgettable visual experience combined with the dangers of life and death. I had a similar experience happen to me one day as I accidentally stumbled into a ghetto in Istanbul, a village dilapidated from the same time as the Ottoman Empire. It was all made of wood with the most magnificent carvings I have ever seen. I found myself frozen in amazement by the artworks and the 400 years in the past it seemed I had walked into. There was a fear of danger that surrounded the area, but the find of beauty and the glorious experience of visual excitement mixed with fear, somehow seemed to imprint these memories (and many others from my life at that time) deep into me.
My father ingrained in me total freedom of expression, to be fearless in everything and to be quite advanced in women's rights in that time. He had a very American perspective (which was a country that he deeply admired) and he worked hard to move the family away from the communistic Czechoslovakia. Because of this there was a big area of conflict of politics between the doctrine of my family life and schooling; in my home, I was taught to create anti-communistic posters and dress and speak how I felt, while in school I was not allowed to express myself, which was not easy as I was given the freedom in my home. But I did fearlessly follow my right to speak my mind; no need to say, it got me into many troubles.
As I started to formulate my direction into art and architecture in Israel, having no idea that this dream was possible, it took my life again on another curve into another continent, America! As this was a country of dreams, I hoped that all of them could be accomplished there, but I found there was another crossroad that I needed to pass. This took me away from the love I always harbored in my heart, but out of it sprung so many other wonderful things instead. I traveled the world just as my ancestors did, with great ease and never-ending curiosity. The whole world was my inspiration for art, I could identify with it, where all of the influences came from artists such as Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Klimt, and many others that I felt so enamored with and that stayed with me in those magic moments of my travels, until this day when I paint.
Presently, contemporary artists also influence me, as different things move us all. But I feel that my biggest influences come from the world that I lived through my travels; the many cultures that I deeply experienced and all of the nature that encompassed it. I feel extremely lucky that I am able to close my eyes and see a small hut in China that had just the right gray I was searching for, or the perfect blue from the mosque tiles in Israel. Then use the magic that pours through my DNA, this invisible hand mixing all of it together, creating the images of my life that I paint now. In these ways, I live in every painting that leaves my studio. If you look deep into my work, you can see how I try to pull you, like a hypnotic wheel, into the layers that I create. Each is a small tiny slice of the pieces of the world, people, and life that I was so fortunate to brush my hand over.
This is my art, and this is my story.