Dafna Rehavia addresses trauma with Binds & Bonds art installation at BOOM Concepts | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Dafna Rehavia addresses trauma with Binds & Bonds art installation at BOOM Concepts

click to enlarge Dafna Rehavia working on Binds & Bonds - PHOTO: BOOM CONCEPTS
Photo: BOOM Concepts
Dafna Rehavia working on Binds & Bonds
For someone with such a soft, gentle demeanor, Pittsburgh-based artist Dafna Rehavia has a penchant for sharp edges. This becomes apparent while exploring Binds & Bonds, her in-progress, site-specific installation on view as part of a two-month residency at BOOM Concepts in Garfield. Among the piles of broken chairs wound in twine, yarn, and ribbons are exposed rusty nails and bits of metal wire. There are also tin can lids, broken glass, and jaguars, the sleek predator appearing throughout as cutouts hanging on a wall or stalking a painting.

Integrating threatening elements into symbols of comfort and healing (like chairs and a row of suspended IVs made partially from modeling clay) adds to a multi-faceted, ever-growing exploration of trauma. An artist statement describes how Rehavia “engages and deconstructs forms of symbolic violence through sculptural construction,” and the repetitive, ongoing process of tying and binding echoing the “emotional processing of trauma that may be personal, social, and intergenerational.”

Rehavia has become somewhat of a fixture in the Pittsburgh arts scene since she immigrated to the city from Tel Aviv 17 years ago with her husband and three children. As a licensed art psychotherapist and counselor, she recognizes how Binds & Bonds allows her to reconcile the trauma of her own lived experience.

“For me, migration was very hard because I had an amazing career and I had to leave it, and I had to start all over again,” says Rehavia, who left her home country due to events like the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “People go through different experiences, and people have different heartaches. It needs to be respected because whatever you go through can be very painful.”

Her show also demonstrates her evolution as an artist. She points to a lone painting, one of the last she did before moving to the U.S. and abandoning the medium all together. (“I just couldn't do it anymore. I still don't know why,” she says.)

Rehavia ended up occupying the middle of BOOM Concepts in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, another traumatic event that informs Binds & Bonds. Initially, BOOM founders DS Kinsel and J. Thomas Agnew invited her to exhibit in the space for the monthly Unblurred gallery crawl back in 2019. After the pandemic took hold, however, any Unblurred exhibits shifted into intensive residencies, with artists being given free reign to produce their work, along with a $500 stipend to buy any materials they needed.

She was shocked at the level of freedom BOOM gave her, adding that she was even permitted to “make holes in walls and ceilings.” She was thankful Kinsel and Agnew gave her the space and time to work, especially while she is still working as a therapist.

“It's a privilege for me,” says Rehavia, adding that she can come and go as she pleases and has time to “play quietly.”

The seemingly peaceful process involves a lot of effort, especially when it comes to collecting materials. She advertised online for people to donate broken or unwanted chairs, and bought some from the nonprofit secondhand store Construction Junction.

Rehavia also wants to work on lighting in the space to better highlight certain elements, including cut-out shapes in the hanging jaguars meant to cast shadows on the walls. “I can't live without my shadows,” she says.
click to enlarge Dafna Rehavia’s Binds & Bonds at BOOM Concepts - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP Photo: Amanda Waltz
Dafna Rehavia’s Binds & Bonds at BOOM Concepts
As part of her art, she strips the chairs down to what she calls their “skeletons” and wraps them in string. Broken wooden arms or legs are added, and materials like discarded photo frames create “heads.” Over the course of the residency, the chairs have developed separate personalities or have become grouped together.

“This lady broke her leg,” says Rehavia, pointing to one chair sculpture. Others wear woven necklaces or brooches, or contain little “organs” within the confines of the outer webbing.

Humanizing the chairs points to the show's focus on community and the collective trauma inherited by the descendants of Holocaust victims and other populations torn apart by war, or those speaking out against other injustices like the recent Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. There are also prints dedicated more specifically to female genital mutilation and domestic abuse.

Rehavia says the chairs, as well as the jaguars, are symbolic of the body's natural response to fear, more specifically what she calls “fight, flight, or freeze.” The “freeze” comes through in the stillness of the chairs, while jaguars serve as a symbol of survival, as animals able to fight against or flee danger.

“The whole thing is about how we relate to trauma,” says Rehavia. “These pieces hold pluralities.”
click to enlarge Dafna Rehavia’s Binds & Bonds at BOOM Concepts - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP Photo: Amanda Waltz
Dafna Rehavia’s Binds & Bonds at BOOM Concepts
While COVID-19 has prevented the public from engaging with the installation, BOOM has organized ways to connect with audiences. They joined forces with dancers Shana Simmons and Chezney Douglas, who choreographed a performance around the installation, which was then streamed on City of Asylum’s “The Show Must Go On(line)” channel. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the gallery teamed with Repair the World for a virtual healing art workshop led by Rehavia.

Until the residency concludes at the end of January, Rehavia says visits to the installation are available by appointment only on Tuesdays and Sundays.

While she has saved and repurposed found objects, the approach extends beyond simply recycling, instead serving as an active method of processing and starting discussions around trauma and healing.

“I feel like I gave them new life,” says Rehavia. “I feel like it's a new beginning.”

Binds & Bonds. BOOM Concepts. 5139 Penn Ave., Garfield. By appointment only. Book with the artist at facebook.com/dafna.rehavia or Instagram.com/rehaviadafna. boomuniverse.co

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