The canonical symbol of the palm tree with its associations of the beach, escape, and luxury has become synonymous with a utopian image of Southern California, Las Vegas, Israel, and elsewhere. The palm is a symbol that appears everywhere—from travel sites, taxi cabs, and hand sanitizer bottles to salt packets—to the point that it has lost its original meaning and has come to signify instead the vacant idea of beachside utopia. This is a sort of façade overtop reality, laced with fantasies of leisure and glamour, which is repeatedly applied to each of these sites ad absurdum until it creates a sense of hollowness, not elsewhere but nowhere.
The palms in these two-dimensional collages were photographed in Israel. Floating against the plastic laminate background, they conjure a feeling of something out of place, detached, or which doesn’t belong. The laminate as a domestic material found indoors in kitchens and on side tables places the palms out of context—just as they are glaringly extraneous in the drought climate of Israel and the American West, having been imported into locations in which they do not belong.
This series reflects the same logic of the generic trope of the palm tree. For example, an isolated palm cut from shiny aluminum (at right) reflects a blurry vision of the viewer, inserting them into the dreamy vacation scene while turquoise neon backlighting reflects the lure of a cheap motel. Or in Palm (Dark) at top or Kaparat Avonot below, the spherical border of the metal surrounding the terrazzo creates a capsule or porthole to a vista of utopia, while at the same time reading as something far more tawdry: the rocks and material summoning up airport floors or outlet malls underfoot, the irregular shapes of polished stone echoing the speckled fat of a salami or the olives embedded in a log of bologna.
Neon Palm, 2021. Aluminum, led, and tinted resin. 25 x 22 inches.
Kaparat Avonot, 2020. Drywall, aluminum, carpet, pebbles, expanding foam, mdf, terrazzo, found objects, house paint, spray paint, airbrush paint, sand, rubber, acrylic. 70 x 44 x 30 inches.
This large sculpture assembles images and construction materials related to typical Israeli gardens and landscaping—a plastic bucket filled with cement, a slew of green hoses taken from the Israeli patented drip irrigation system, each assembled in a partacz or bungler’s ramshackle jury-rigging. The palm as a signal of value is in tension with the shoddy materials and chintzy components. The foliage abounds with verdant fronds and leaves hand cut from photographs of trees and bushes. Look closely: figures lurk in the bushes and behind the scenes of many of the photographs, seeking to camouflage into the unnatural environment while peeping back voyeuristically.