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Photo by Joanie Harmon; caption below

Art Without Borders: Gilah Hirsch Builds Bridge of Friendship to Slovakia

Music and culture are for... communication, for love and for peace.
- Stano Cerny, artist
 

When professor of art Gilah Hirsch participated in an international art symposium and exhibited her work in Slovakia and Poland last semester, she brought home the ultimate souvenir of her travels: A friendship with two artists who were her hosts in Bratislava, Slovakia.

In February, she returned the favor to graphic artist Ingrid Bezakova and painter Stano Cerny, who visited the United States for the first time and spoke to Hirsch and
Michelle Allen’s (assistant professor of visual arts) students about contemporary art and graphic design in Eastern Europe on Feb. 15. As the founders of Orpheus Graphic Design, the pair has been part of the movement to define their country’s aesthetic since the fall of communist rule.

“Before the fall of communism, graphic design was very limited,” says Bezakova. “The products all had to be and look the same, and there was no competition. Now, they have to differentiate between products.”

With the influx of information from the outside and the arrival of the Internet, doors opened to creativity and the challenge of marketing goods and services to a public that never had to make choices before. Fine art before the fall of communism was also equally nondescript. According to Cerny, “In the 1960s, when we were occupied, it was all about conceptual art, it was expressionless, and it was presented underground in private exhibitions.”

Cerny, who produced his portfolio in the form of the first interactive multimedia CD-ROM in Slovakia in 1994, presented examples of his work to the assembled students, which was accompanied by his own flamenco guitar. Bezakova, who is a jazz singer, points out the serendipity of a cross-cultural appreciation of the arts, in saying that “You don’t need the same language.”

“There’s a big blues festival in Bratislava,” notes Hirsch. “Even though they’re singing in Slovak and sometimes in English, you’d swear you were hearing
B.B. King. Jazz is very big in Europe, and they say, the arts have no borders. We all have the same heart, so we are affected in the same way.”

Consul General of the Slovak Republic František Hudák and his wife Dana Hudákova, also visited CSUDH that day. He points out that an exchange of ideas and cultures did not come to a halt during the communist regime, saying that, “Slovakia is a small country with a long history. Maybe they didn’t have a lot of opportunities because the borders were closed, but it doesn’t mean that everything was dark. Compared to the United States, Europe is very small, so the distances are very short. Vienna and Bratislava are only 30 miles apart, so it is a small region that is very rich in culture, not just in our country, but in neighboring countries. That may be why the culture survives.”

Hirsch experienced the depth of the Slovakian people’s ties to not just art, but their own culture, which is encouraged to flourish in an era of globalization and homogenization.

“In Bratislava, you can walk past the house where Mozart lived, where Chopin lived, where Béla Bartók lived,” she recalls. “You’re steeped in this cultural history, it’s in the air. The children are given classical music and literary education from a very young age, and a profound education in their cultural heritage. Everyone learns to play an instrument, and they learn the literature and the poetry of their country.

“When people get together, they spend an evening at home, singing, playing music, and reciting poetry. They will choose that, rather than to go out and be entertained somewhere else.”

While Bezakova and Cerny look forward to expanding their graphic design business and their art, they expressed their wish to experience and learn from other cultures. Cerny describes art as an opportunity for “expression and connecting with other people and civilizations.

“Like Gilah says, it’s for making peace. Music and culture are for that, for communication, for love and for peace.”

Hirsch's art is currently shown in the “Makor/Source” exhibit at USC Hillel,
3300 S. Hoover St., (213) 747-9135, and at UCLA Hillel, 574 Hilgard Ave.,
(310) 208-3081. Both exhibits run through March 3. For more information,
click here
.

For a look at the art of Stano Cerny, click here.

For more information on Gilah Hirsch, visit http://www.gilah.com.

-Joanie Harmon

Photo above (L-R): František Hudák, Consul General of the Slovak Republic; Garry Hart, interim dean, College of Liberal Arts (CLA); Dana Hudákova; Carol Tubbs, acting associate dean, CLA;
Ingrid Bezakova, graphic artist; Stano Cerny, painter and computer artist; and Gilah Hirsch, professor of art.

 

 
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Last updated Monday, February 27, 12:19 p.m., by Joanie Harmon