We had the good fortune of connecting with Yochi Yakir-Avin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yochi, how do you think about risk?
In my personal life I chose to risk more than once. In my twenties, already married with a 3-year-old kid, I was determinate to go and study art abroad, in Italy. I convinced my husband at the time, and we started to prepare, sold everything, and left Israel in order to try to get into the Academy of art (for me) and the Med University (vet for him). It was very challenging to be accepted into the academy, it was based not only on art skills but also on Italian language. And of course, to ensure our son, a safe and nice environment in a foreign country. We were accepted, graduated successfully and lived in Milan for 7 wonderful years. In a city like Milan to find a studio space was imaginary. Better yet for a student, without a steady income, to commit to a contract, it was risky and even unrealistic. But on my third academy year, I needed more space to create, so I started to persistently look for one. I found a perfect studio and managed to convince two of my artist friends to join, overcoming the bureaucracy, we signed a lease to a studio that is still active today. In my fifties, after divorcing my first husband, I met my second husband. He was living in the US and I was in Israel, surrounded by my daughter, son and grandkids. After a year we got married, I followed him to South Florida. I’m not sure if it’s easier when you’re young to take risks, and adjust to changes, for sure this wasn’t easy. Two years later, I found my art studio and had to restart from scratch since I left all my art behind. It’s been already 6 extremely creative years, in which I kept getting many requests to teach and guide workshops. I decided to jump into deep water only last year and started to teach oil painting classes. It was a big risky step for me, I was afraid of the language difficulties, but it proved to be an imaginary barrier, and I’m very grateful and rewarded to have my students. In my artistic life, I love the uncertainty while creating, and the adventure of the process. At the same time, I’m often challenged by demanding projects, and often question my ability to realize them. It might take a few hours to overcome my doubts, I always take the risk, not ever regretting doing so. It’s always an opportunity to stretch and improve my artistic ability, and to ask for more of myself. Worldwide we are now living a reality like we never experienced before, and nothing is like it used to be. These are extremely challenging times. I believe in challenges, and it means also to risk and to walk on uncertain ground. Art has never been a safe and guaranteed place and creating is making something out of nothing. It can be paralyzing but also very rewarding to create something that was never done before. I believe that authentic expression, innovation, creativity and change grows in the ground of uncertainty.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a multidisciplinary artist; I paint with oil colors mostly on canvas, realistic series of portraits and still life. I also create mixed media wall sculptures, as well as elaborated transfer techniques pieces on paper and wood. And last but not least, I make playful color pencil clocks. I love the freedom of creating and experimenting without restrictions with different fascinating materials. It’s my way of analyzing and communicating what I have to say with challenging shapes and materials.
My European education, in Israel and Italy, is reflected in my paintings. The restricted choice of colors in oil paintings, the monochromatic backgrounds reflecting moods, slightly out of focus, even blurry, are reminders of the long foggy winters in Milan. In my series I share the uncertainty, vulnerability, and the beauty of humans and nature, which was part of my life experience. It took me a long time to connect to my past, and to let it filtrate into my work and become a source of my creative expression. This is more evident than ever in the recent work I have created since social distancing and isolation.
Working and creating at my home studio, made me converge inward physically and mentally, and connect with my sources, in which uncertainty was a key factor. Although vulnerability is demonstrated throughout my work, the images offer hope, comfort and peace to the viewer, which result in an optimistic vision, so much needed always, and especially now.
A comprehensive personal show, that was scheduled for May 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been postponed due to the Covid-19. I’m working on two other exhibitions that are scheduled for June and July 2020, and most probably are going to start virtually. They will be offered as a 360-degree tour, including a workshop video tutorial and an interview. Hopefully, the exhibitions will be open to the public as our lives return to normal.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Hopefully soon, we all be able to visit our favorite places, so when my best friend comes to visit, I’ll show first, my studio, at Studio 18 in the Pines, which is a complex of 18 art studios, and a center gallery with exhibitions all year long. There will be so much art to see, that a week won’t be enough, we’ll have to choose from the list below: The Rubell Family Collection, The Perez (PaMM), The NSU, The Wynwood Art district, Miami Design District, The Bakehouse Art Complex, The WMODA museum, The Margulies Collection, The Oolite art studios, The Fountainhead. If we’ll advance some time, we can drive to the Norton Museum in W. Palm Beach. The following three recommended restaurants happen to be in our neighborhood (Pembroke Pines): La Bru-ske-ta, Broccolini, and a French one, La Brochette Bistro. In Fort Lauderdale, Casa D’Angelo. When in Wynwood area, Pummarola Mid Town pizzeria, has amazing pizza and for ice cream we’d go to Gelatte gelato coffee shop. Another ice cream place, Gelato, is located in Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale. The renovated and remodeled Hard Rock, with the guitar shape hotel, is a must attraction for guests in South Florida, as well as the famous Art Deco district in South Beach. If we’ll have a chance to see a concert, the best place is The Parker Playhouse or the beautiful venue (with few and far between concerts) of Olympia Theater. South Florida is known for its beaches, so in between the cultural and the culinary tour we’ll spend some time in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood or South Beach.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Shoutout of recognition goes my husband, who is my mainstay and anchor, always supportive and reinforces, and always the voice of reason. Also to my artist friend and mentor, Meir Natif. Our long-standing friendship crosses oceans, and we share insights as well as doubts on a regular basis. Grateful for my sister Lisa Yves, who is a professional musician and vocalist, with whom I can share experiences of success, disappointments, and sometimes rejection, and expect a constructive criticism. It’s dedicated to my family, my daughter and son, my brothers. Dedicated to the friends who accompany me along the way, my artists friends and colleagues, who influence and engage in my artistic way. And to my students from whom I learn so much.