WESTFORD — Nestled in a Westford resident’s backyard, a unique art installation is sure to leave an impression on viewers.
Rachel Shatil, a lifelong artist from Israel, creates a number of sculptures and displays in her basement studio in her home in Westford. Her recent installation “Lost and Found” was one of a number of pieces for Brookline-based art collective Studios Without Walls annual exhibition.
The piece displays a trail of pink and red-hued donated shoes that lead upward toward a cloudlike mesh affixed to a large tree. She notes the piece invokes a transition toward a “place where we can rest and connect with our losses.”
“This piece basically deals with the experience of genocide. What you see is what you get,” Shatil told WestfordCAT. “Shoes, of course, are a very instinctive metaphor for human beings. You see many empty shoes, it’s very emotional.”
She continued, “you see a collective journey of humans in a certain fate.”
The installation speaks to Shatil’s personal experiences – losing a majority of her family during the Holocaust.
“Almost every piece comes from this pool of ideas, metaphors and stories,” she said. “I heard stories about them, I had to imagine them to recreate them in the clouds.”
Shatil notes that though she is not a political artist, her work is intended to invoke specific feelings and emotions in viewers.
“I think making art is inherently political,” Shatil told WestfordCAT. “It’s for the experience, the function of it is to invoke something, a feeling, thought or experience.”
She continued, “today we live in what I call a genocidal culture. We see an acceptance of certain language and ideas. I have a very strong sensitivity towards this phenomenon.”
Creating the piece would have been “impossible” without the over 800 pairs of shoes donated by the community, according to Shatil.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help of our neighbors,” she said. “The collecting of shoes was a very big part of the effort.”
Collecting these donations, Shatil says, brought her “much closer” to her new community in Westford.
“To me it was a healing experience of some sort, to have people so supportive,” she said.
The piece is currently in storage with Shatil in Westford, eventually moving to display it in additional shows next year.
Check out the full Cat Tracks below.
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