A few months ago, friend and artist Claire Weisberg, myself and others were together, chatting and drinking, typical of us on a given Shabbat (Friday evening). I casually, and somewhat jokingly mentioned to her that I wanted her to paint a colorful, Jewish-Indian elephant farting a rainbow, with a joint in his hand. I also mentioned that that I’d love if it included music notes.
Ridiculous as hell, right?
Well Claire came back to me with a sketch, of precisely what I’d described — she then spent over two months painting “Yehuda the Elephant” on my bedroom wall.
Each day I commuted back and forth for work, Haifa to Tel Aviv, and back. Upon arrival, I headed to my bedroom excited, and rightfully so, to check on the progress of Yehuda. To my surprise, Claire and boyfriend Doron were still there, while she painted away, well into the night. Her goal was to have the mural completed by Haifa’s Street Mural Festival.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to move the wall for others to bask in the rays of its gloriousness, so we settled for a private viewing with a few close friends, and later attended the street art festival.
So who is this wizard of an artist?
Claire Weisberg is an American-Israeli artist based in Haifa. She describes her style of art as “highly-stylized and psychedelic.” She also says she can largely attribute her style to her father, a product of 1960s and 1970s American culture.
Essentially, Claire can be summed up in one word. “Rainbow.” This is especially apparent in the painting on my wall, titled “Yehuda the Elephant.”
She says in the past, she rejected her inherent surrealist style in order to appeal to the more dominant and contemporary minimalist genre. She continued, “recently, I’ve chosen to refine my technical skills instead – I’ve thereby carved out a space of my own within the surrealist style of art.”
I asked Wiseberg to explain the process of creating Yehuda the Elephant. She says the first step was to fully understand the artistic direction, as it is the foundation for a successful commissioned project.
Once I have an understanding of a client’s artistic preferences, I search through my old sketchbooks and art history textbooks. I love putting my art history degree to good use by pulling inspiration from different eras and cultures, and then merging these references into my own artistic style. For the Yehuda, I pulled from classic rock album art, Japanese cloud illustration, and of course — the Hindu God Ganesha.
Once sketched, the materials determine much of the final product. In the case of Yehuda, I used both Posca and Montana brand paint markers which lend to a highly-detailed and patterned piece. The final result is then formed by countless hours of slow work, too many cups of coffee and an unwavering desire to communicate my personal vision to the public.”
Now 24-years-of-age, the small-town American-born artist artist grew up in Kingman, AZ, a town with a flourishing art scene. She says the city provided her with a unique perspective which she’s only recently come to appreciate.
In chatting with her about art’s importance in her life, Weisberg says it has always been an essential part of her everyday life, and that she simply decided she’d rather fail a thousand times doing something she loves rather than succeeding in any other field.
“When left to my own devices, I’d love to “art” all day, and I’ve never had a problem with a lack of inspiration or contrarily struggle. Visually, I love high contrast, detail, and the harmony between organic and geometric forms. The variation of architectural styles and natural elements within Haifa have been a great source of inspiration. Trips to the shuk (an Israeli outdoor market), running errands in Hadar (a small hipster neighborhood in the middle of Haifa with a diverse set Arab-Israeli, Israeli and Russian-born Israeli dwellers) and my apartment’s view of the Bahai Gardens are my favorite sources of daily, visual inspiration,” Weisberg said.
As an artist, she touches mostly on humor and irony, as she say’s the two perfectly complement her surrealist style.
Thinking about artists who have, and still do called Israel their home, the historical significance of the land, and the geo-political issues facing the country, I asked Weisberg what its like creating art in her ancestral homeland.
“Undoubtedly, environment plays an important role in creative output. Being an olah chadasha (a new immigrant), particularly during the Trump presidency, has given me an entirely new perspective which has in turn provided me with invaluable inspiration,” Weisberg said.
Weisberg also practices body art with ink and henna, and has done so since the age of 13-years-old. This required her to develop superior free-hand drawing capabilities, which she describes as both meditative and challenging.
Now, with more than ten years of experience in body art, it is clear that Henna has greatly influenced her style of art.
Weisberg is currently working on sketch ideas for future murals, and street art pieces, as inherent social and political art both fascinate her.
She says, she is also working on a line of necklaces and key chains with fellow artist and craft maker Midori Intrator. The two debuted their first pieces together last month at a local arts and crafts festival, and plan to make more appearances at other similar festivals throughout Israel.
One of the more fascinating things Claire does is creating unique baked goods in various shapes, characters and colors. She says she’s on a quest to not only satisfy her sweet tooth, but she also loves the challenge of improving her skills as a baker.
“From giant gingerbread cookies and pig pen cupcakes to traditional wedding cakes, the combination of science and art in baking both offer a new creative challenge – and result in some tasty art,” Weisberg said.
You can keep up with Weisberg, and all of her artsy adventures on Instagram.