In a society focussed primarily with young talent, contemporary artist Ahuva Zeloof represents an inspirational figure for mature artists. Largely self-taught, after teaching yoga since the 1970s, she recently turned her hand to creating artworks inspired by female movement, energy, and her own experiences as a woman and mother. “My own journey as an artist started at a stage in life that many people begin to wind down – she said to CrunchyTales-, but for me, once the ball started rolling I found I just couldn’t stop“. Finally able to find her voice creatively and in terms of public recognition and exhibition, she let her almost-exclusively figurative works (made in stone, bronze, wax and glass) display all the richness and depth associated with a life spent well.
Ahuva, some of the most exciting artists of our time are women over 60 and several studies confirm the extraordinary flowering of artistic sparkle in mature age. Do you feel is there a particular inner shift that propelled female artists to new heights later in life?
I think the experience that we gain in life as we age enriches us. I believe the world has become more accepting of a wider experience and I am humbled that I am able to communicate my art and engage with new audiences through my work.
Only recently you began to find your voice creatively and in terms of public recognition and exhibition. Do you consider yourself a late bloomer?
You could say that, but on the other hand, you could say I’m a later starter and an early bloomer. Until not long ago my sole focus was my children and my grandchildren and helping to provide for them. I have always loved art but my own journey as an artist started at a stage in life that many people begin to wind down, but for me, once the ball started rolling I found I just couldn’t stop.
How did you start sculpting and which are your favourite materials to work with? Is there any particular one you think might enhance and represent your artistic vision better than others?
It’s a funny story actually, I always baked biscuits for my family and I loved to make them into beautiful shapes. It was my friend Galia who saw my cookies and dragged me to a clay sculpting evening class. That small act of friendship changed everything, the class was enough to make me hungry for more. Clay didn’t speak to me as a medium so I explored more materials and kept an open mind. I found carving in stone that to be the most exciting and rewarding medium, it constantly challenges me, first to see the image in the stone and then to find a way of unveiling it for others to see, too.
Your figurative works are characterised by smooth curves and inspired by your own experiences as a woman, a mother and a yoga teacher. In which way has your feminine energy influenced your creations?
When I create work I go into my own zone and try to achieve the technical challenges and visual ambitions I have for that stone. It’s only really in hindsight that we try to find the connection to ideas such as femininity and feminism. Really I want others to find their own meaning in my work and enjoy looking and touching the art I make.
Several women in their middle age don’t have a positive body image. They struggle to feel comfortable with their size, their weight or the way they look. How does your work challenge the ways in which society presents and views the physical body?
If I’m completely honest I don’t see my work as a tool that challenges or provokes or even raises a discussion, my approach is much simpler. I am happy to celebrate the human and womanly figure in all its diversity.
A sense of purposeful confidence flows through your sculpted bodies. Do you think this is the reflection of your achieved self-confidence? Does growing older allow us to dare a bit more?
It’s great to have a notion of gaining confidence, in my own experience when it comes to working with stone glass and bronze your ability to realise the potential of a material throughout a given medium gives you confidence and makes you proud. But it also opens new horizons and a gulf you want to conquer. I think confidence is like knowledge, the more you learn the more you realise how much you don’t know.
Do you think artists can show us a better and more positive approach to ageing? If so, how?
I believe that through art we can reflect and share almost every social and or philosophical topic. I think artists and art can help us on our own reflection and to accept and celebrate ourselves at various stages of our lives. It’s important to embrace every part of life.
We are living in a youth-centred society. Do you have the feeling of becoming invisible with age? Is ageism impacting on your work in some ways?
I admire youth and I enjoy youthfulness through my children and grandchildren. There is something quite refreshing re-visiting all those steps in life through a new generation. Somehow with the perspective life gives you all those stages that at the time seem daunting, are now embraced with so much more ease these days.
What is a myth about women artists you’d like to debunk most?
This is probably the hardest question for me; I don’t really see artists as men or women, or specifically as young or old. To me, we are all individuals that are passionate about art. If I look at my own weave of friends and colleagues, they are of all ages, colours and sexes. I definitely see art as something that unifies, a glue between people. Perhaps there are so many older women in art at the moment because we were not able or allowed to shine through in the same way we are now that more doors and hearts are open to them.
And finally, is there any advice you would like to give to emerging artists over 50?
Don’t take yourself too seriously and just try because you have nothing to lose. Don’t be afraid to embark on a formal education later on in life. Everything you have done so far is an asset to help you in the future.