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Conversations with the Inspiring Rhea Carmi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rhea Carmi.

Rhea, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Jerusalem under the British mandate in 1942. To grow up in Israel is to experience the world both as upheaval and as a sanctuary. I captured both the anguish and the peace of my own experiences. I started to paint after Yom Kippur war when I lost my brother-in-law. I needed a way to cope and I turned to painting.

My artistic evolution quickly became about more than confronting the grief of my loss. I also had to process warring sides of my personality — the scientist vs. the artist.

I worked in the physiology department at Jerusalem University before switching to studying art at Ramat-Gan Institute for the Arts. I studied under artist Moti Mizrahi, an artist recognized for his conceptual art and use of space.

In my work, you can see a war between certain characteristics of mine, one side of me that wants everything to be in order and the other is my free spirit.

I utilize my chemistry background, tapping into my inner scientist. Jerusalem stone and other raw materials such as sand and rocks recreate the look of antiquity. Through carving into the paint, painting on stone and using ancient Hebrew letters, I create a cave-painting look that symbolizes the resilience of the Jewish people throughout history.

I deal with the universal emotions of people experiences after trauma or tragedy.

My free spirit manifests itself in the Carnaval, Everlasting spirit and Earth & Water series.

In 1981, we moved from Israel to Los Angeles. This move is reflected in my art. It became more relaxed.

In 1994, we lost our home and my studio to the Northridge earthquake. I stopped painting and concentrated on my second love of tennis. I started to paint again and this time not because of war or disaster but the beauty of the green hills surrounding my home after rainy winter.

When my grandchildren were born, I concentrated more on celebrating life manifested in the Carnaval series.

In 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The weekly Chemotherapy lasted about four hours in which I was looking at the sky through the big window that I was facing. This produced many spiritual blue paintings in the Earth & water series.

I am now in remission and since my painting is personal a universal diary, I deal with
the environment recycling materials found objects and the latest fires. I start sculpting using found burned trees and other ocean driftwood and objects.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It is a hard road, along the road, you face rejection and disappointments. You have to be true to yourself. Keep doing what you love and be persistent. Eventually, doors will be opened.

Please tell us more about your art, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
My art is diverse. I started to work on three major series:
Humanity’s Struggles, Humanity’s Resilience-Ancient Lands and Ever Lasting Spirit.

Since I don’t like to repeat myself, I expended the series to subseries:
Les Voix du Silence, Light in the Dark, Our Fragile Earth, Carnaval, Earth, and Water, Black and White, Monochromes, Triangles Works on paper and sculptures.

It would be great to hear about any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve used and would recommend to others.
I read lots of art, history and science books.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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