Dana Zaltzman encapsulates fragments of time, fragile shards in which the awareness of the transient becomes acute to the point of anxiety. She paints scales in painful detail, absurdly weighing feathers, groundsel flowers, or paper bags with metal weights on the opposite weighing pan. The iconography of the “scales of justice” is rooted in Egyptian art. The Book of the Dead describes how the heart of the deceased is weighed on a scale: if the heart is lighter than a feather, the departed is awarded eternal life. Christian iconography depicts the Archangel Gabriel weighing souls on Judgment Day, while medieval painters depicted personified Justice as a blindfolded woman holding a sword and a scale. Dana Zaltzman’s paintings of scales, like the majority of her works, are devoid of festive tones but are imbued with sumptuousness and a sense of awe. White feathers are not exotic at all, neither are groundsels, which grow wild, their seeds dispersed with a breath of wind. These items fill the glowing pans of the scale, being weight against iron weights, as if challenging them with a combination of hope, innocence, and despair which seem to arise from Zaltzman’s oeuvre – beautiful, painful paintings, with consummate self-awareness. Zaltzman has thus been developing her style in relation to art history and contemporary trends. The paintings feature transparent brushwork that seems to be hovering over the canvas alongside of crisp rendering of objects. One can almost feel the cold metal or the rough surface of the leaves she depicts, as Zaltzman studies the limitations and lies in reflecting realities. Her ability to create the illusion of objects is amazing, but her goal is not “to hold…the mirror up to nature,” as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, describing acting (and art in general).
Zaltzman has created a “twilight zone” of reality and its near disappearance. It is as if she is beseeching viewers through her scales paintings to weigh the vulnerable and transient as compared to the metal, to delight in earthly beauty, and await Judgment Day.
Dana Zaltzman’s (b. 1982, Israel) quest for art education has taken her on a journey off the beaten path of Israeli art. While she was an art student at the Tel Hai Academic College, Zaltzman was studying figurative painting in the private studio of Amir Nir on Kibbutz Hagoshrim (2005- 2007). She then traveled to Norway to study with Odd Nerdrum, an artist whose works are greatly impacted by Rembrandt and Caravaggio, offering a renewed observation of kitsch. Zaltzman then traveled to Florence to study at the Florence Academy of Art (2009-2012), an American school in Italy, continuing the tradition of 19th century French academic painting.