Entire Life in a Package: World-Traveling Art Exhibit Hits Traverse City

Orna Ben-Ami is from Israel, and admittedly found her artistic voice later in life.

“I was not born as an artist in the beginning, it took me a few years to get into it,” she says. “I was working as a news editor and reporter on the radio, so I had some contact with the media, but it was waiting for me and there were specific stages that I went into. Now I know I was an artist from the beginning.”

An artist with the heart of a journalist, Orna Ben-Ami’s roots are clear when you see this exhibit titled “Entire Life in a Package” at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City.

“It deals with the refugees, (what) I want is that people will look at the refugees as people, not numbers,” she says. “What I tried to come up with is the things that people are taking with them. If you’re leaving your home, what will you take? Your past, your memories, your belongings, and your identity and your hopes for the future. And this is what people are taking.”

There are plenty of things that set her work apart, starting with her medium of choice.

“It’s a woman sculpting in iron steel welding working with the material itself it, shows women can do anything that people think they cannot, it’s very simple,” Orna says. “Also what I’m trying to do is take the metal and put emotions, put softness, put my femininity into it.”

She combines the metal work with Reuter’s photos all taken within the last 20 years.

The photos are reinforced to hold the metal, giving them a 3-D quality. She’s also included some of her older pieces, focusing on the homeless.

The pieces have traveled all over the world.

“It was showing in the United Nations for the last two years, New York, Geneva, many museums in Europe, now it’s come back to the states thanks to Gene and the Dennos Museum,” Orna says.

She’s hoping the exhibit will resonate with Northern Michigan as it has in other places, bringing people together.

“I met Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Geneva and Germany, and they were like and they came to me and they hugged me,” Orna says. “Syria is the biggest enemy of Israel, they came to me and hugged me because of this exhibition. This is, I really want do look at them as people and they felt it and they were so excited about the exhibition, and I felt those moments. I felt that art can build bridges and that’s what I want to do.”

The exhibit runs through May 5. You can learn more by heading to dennosmuseum.org.

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