Two cultures joined in art

Akko Beach (Echo Beach), watercolour. | Photo courtesy of Sandy Blass

Akko Beach (Echo Beach), watercolour. | Photo courtesy of Sandy Blass

Watercolour painter Sandy Blass will be appearing at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCCGV) to debut her first solo exhibit No Other Country… The exhibit expresses Blass’ inner feelings toward her dual identity of being from both Canada and Israel.

As a Diaspora Jew, Blass finds herself in the middle of two cultures. Born and raised in Calgary before moving to Vancouver, Blass identifies as a Canadian, however, her connection to Israel springs from growing up in a rich Jewish culture. Blass says she is not simply from one land, but from both.

One and the same

Blass’s exhibit, a collection she deems culturally and spiritually influenced, opens Nov. 24 and will feature ten paintings highlighting the landscapes of both Canada and Israel.

“There’s this saying in Israel amongst Israelis. They say ‘I have no other country’ because they’re born there. Me as a Diaspora Jew, it’s not quite the same,” Blass says. “You say ‘no other country,’ but really you have two.”

Blass never had any problems accepting one culture or the other; on an intimate level, she has constantly felt a balance between the two. She says she isn’t half-Canadian or half-Israeli, but rather both Canadian and Israeli entirely.

“I love it there. I love it here,” says Blass. “They’re both landscapes that are endlessly informative. They always speak. I think the Canadian landscape is truly overwhelming that way. Israel can be equally so, just because there’s so much history there.”

The combination of the landscapes and history of both Canadian and Israeli atmospheres gives Blass a sense of familiarity; these commonalities between the two cultures are where she finds solace.

“Because I’m able to go back and forth [between Canada and Israel] often enough, it’s never really felt like [choosing one or the other],” Blass says. “It’s sort of on a soul-heart level, the push-pull between the two places.”

Blass says her artwork mimics her connection to both Canada and Israel, and she captures this feeling of push and pull in her landscape paintings. Immortalizing Canadian nature such as Gabriola Island, as well as Israeli sights like Akko Beach, Blass is able to recreate the feeling she has while embracing her dual identity. As Blass puts it, she is in awe.

So awe-inspired by the landscape and history of both her countries, Blass uses watercolour to capture that feeling on canvas.

“In a way, it’s kind of eternal because it’s so constant and so unchanging where everything else around us – culturally, socially, politically – changes so quickly,” Blass says. “You go to a place like [Canada], or you go to a place like Israel, which has ancient, ancient history, you see more of the eternal nature of those kinds of things.”

Speaking through watercolour

Artist Sandy Blass. | Photo courtesy of Sandy Blass

Artist Sandy Blass. | Photo courtesy of Sandy Blass

Though she has used other paint mediums like oil and acrylic in the past, Blass found her love for watercolour in high school and has returned to it time and time again. Blass says watercolour is a finicky medium to use – the colour doesn’t remain consistent nor does the way it spreads itself on the paper. That is why Blass prefers it.

“I don’t have 100 per cent control. The painting isn’t done when I finish painting. It’s done when the water stops moving,” she says.

Blass uses watercolour as the medium she feels best to capture the beauty of the landscapes that remind her of her identity.

“I’ve always wanted to express what I felt on a soul level,” says Blass. “I think that the mountains speak, and the prairies speak, and the sky speaks.”

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