Hanoch Piven spoke to USF students on Feb. 4, and showed some of his collage portraits, including this one of Moses with matzo bread as his beard. (Photo Courtesy of Courtesy of PAULA BIRNBAUM)

“Hi, My Name is Hanoch Piven and I Play With Objects”

A portrait of a man with a banana peel for a nose, and another of a man with twigs as hair are one of the many collages that uses objects to portray people in the exhibit “The Whimsical World of Hanoch Piven.” The work of the Israeli artist famous for these caricatures is currently on display at the Jewish Community Center until April 30.

Hanoch Piven, visited USF earlier this month where he gave a lecture to the students in the department of  art + architecture. For almost two hours, Piven shared episodes about his artistic career, and the different paths it had led him to.

“It’s OK to play with objects,” Piven said. His pieces are made of food and gadgets coming from various places, and in doing so, he is telling a story by creating something new. These are playful stories which cleverly carry Piven’s sense of humor.

He depicted Sara Netanyahu’s portrait, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister, using a yellow broom as her hair. She was said to have an obsession with cleanliness. Although this might be one of his most well-known and liked caricatures, Netanyahu did not seem to enjoy the piece as much when she told  Piven over the phone.

While studying at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York, Piven followed the old techniques of caricaturists. Unsuccessful, he started looking at artists who did caricatures in a different way. The film poster for Diktatorn, “the Great Dictator,” a 1940 anti-Nazi, comedy-drama film showing a portrait photograph of Charlie Chaplin was an influence to Piven’s career. Ideas came by coincidence and luck. Leaving the assumption that you had to achieve the perfect object after the first try, Piven started wandering in this constant mode of searching. Trials and errors allowed him to arrive to what he calls “happy accidents.” In order to create, he says you need to be playful.

Creativity is the capacity to look at the world in a different way. To do so, we need to free ourselves from labels, holding back our need to categorize things. A good way to do this, according to Piven, is to look for faces in objects. Once you start noticing them, you will realize facial identities exists in objects everywhere around us.

The variability of his art opened many doors for Piven, and although there are times when he needed to pay the bills, his work allowed for people to meet, communicate and express things that may be too difficult to convey with words.

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