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Mira Maylor at Habatat Gallery

by Kate Soczka

Cover, Mira Maylor

The Habatat Gallery is different.  You can’t cheat by peering through the window.  It is absent of oil paintings and photography.  There are no tall white walls inviting you in.  I liked all of this very much.  When you open the front door you are enveloped in darkness – and then you notice the illuminated glass.  Beautiful lit glass, delicately displayed, and it draws you in.  Human forms. Rough, natural elements.  Transpositions.  Mira Maylor’s work is refreshingly unfamiliar.  Her mixed media evokes disparate feelings and curiosity of meaning.

And the meaning runs deep.  Maylor, an Israeli artist, uses glass sculpture transposed with materials such as wood, metal, and leather to comment on the rich history of Israel, political climate, and biblical covenant.  The show explores the paradox between sacred position and profane condition.  The piece entitled, Malkom, includes a pair of cast glass hands posed as if giving an offering.  Red dirt fills the creases of the hands, which lay solemnly in the head of an old shovel.  Interest is achieved by the co-existence of elemental materials –glass, iron, and earth.  Malkom, meaning “place” in Hebrew, reflects the current geopolitical situation, but also existential struggle as the hands offer the earth instead of manning the tool.

No. 238, Mira Maylor

On the opposing wall, a single angel wing hangs vertically from a steel hook.  The light cascades down each sculpted glass feather.  It looks as though a fallen angel has turned in their wings for good – the last artifact from a graceful existence now hung out to dry. It is disconcerting but also extremely beautiful.

A series of four pieces, The Numbered Figures, holds religious symbolism as well as historic reference. Glass casts of human faces are partially covered by cowhide.  Upon closer inspection, the branded numbers on the cowhide are visible.  This branded number on the skin is not only evidence of the previous life (sacred skin used often in Jewish ceremonies) but also tributary of the way Jews were branded in the Second World War.  Each piece is mounted from an array of humble wooden planks that recall a crucifixion motif.

Makom, Mira Maylor

The show is titled Between the Sacred and the Profane. An apt title since body parts are often displayed in cages, nailed to planks, or strapped in by leather bands.  It is not gruesome, however, and instead there is an air of sadness or even mysterious beauty. Untitled is a gripping visual of an arched human back fitted into a wooden box and packed with cowhide.

Maylor’s work is wrought with symbolism and extremely detailed.  The simple fact that she creates such warmth and realism through the medium of glass is astounding.

Mira Maylor: Between the Sacred and the Profane is at the Habatat Galleries at 222 West Superior until May 31st.