Tal Shochat: In Praise of a Dream

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday October 27, 2011


It’s hard to imagine contemporary landscape photography from Israel without a political framework of some sort. There are the fences; the designated roadways; the illegal settlements; inaccessible crops going to ruin in the Occupied Terratories; national parks bristling with non-native species. Powerful images by exceptional photographers portray the realities of this troubled land in ways that escape the often one-shot view of journalism.

But consider the work of Tal Shochat, whose photographs are on view at Andrea Meislin Gallery through November 5th. Here the desert blooms against an intensely black background. A utopian orchard unfolds in a series of photographs of Pomegranate, Fig, Peach, Plum and Pear trees. Stately Palm and Cypress trees rise from the dusty earth. They seem bonsai’d through the artist’s strategy of placing a colossal backdrop of black velvet behind her subjects. The result is a collection of images that at first glance appear to be dreamy pictures of a glass blower’s, or enamelist’s art.

But these gem-like images also exude an earthiness and sensuality that materializes out of biblical references: “The Song of Songs,” the Garden of Eden, and also, says the artist, John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

During the installation last month, I asked Ms. Shochat if she drew any boundaries between Israel and the Occupied Territories when selecting specimens to photograph. She said no, she was simply looking for the most beautiful trees of their kind to include in her ongoing project. In essence, these fifteen photographs can be seen as a silent prayer for changes in land distribution that is more humane, principled, and humanistic.

Tal Shochat | In Praise of a Dream closes Saturday, November 5th at Andrea Meislin Gallery. 526 West 26th Street, #214, NY, NY. Photograph above: Rimon (Pomegranate), 2010; copyright Tal Shochat, courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery.