On display at Jerusalem’s Nature Museum, artist Navah de-Shalit has gathered her collection of creatures large and small.
Different from the collection of taxidermy animals in the museum’s other rooms, de-Shalit’s specimens — butterflies, fish, owls, mice and birds — are made of combinations of bubble wrap, chicken wire, spare bike parts, badminton birdies, old hairbrushes and broken umbrellas.
The exhibit, “Ironic Nature,” is a compilation of 21, three-dimensional creatures she sees on daily walks each night with her dog around the Israel Museum in the Valley of the Cross, the green, forested stretch of land that surrounds the museum. It was there that de-Shalit started collecting “garbage” she found in the valley over the course of two years.
“You wouldn’t believe what I’d find,” she said.
Once she began sculpting shapes out of what she’d found, de-Shalit made some rules, allowing herself to buy extra chicken wire if necessary, but each piece had to be made primarily out of her discoveries.
That’s how the sculptures got started. The bat was the first, formed of a broken umbrella, reminiscent of the bats that sometimes swooped overhead during her walks.
She also added materials from her own home, like her kids’ leftover shoelaces that became earthworms crawling on an oversized leaf made of wire; toothpaste caps are used as eyes for one of the owls and a snake is made out of a vacuum cleaner hose, with the serrated edge of an aluminum foil box forming its wickedly sharp tongue.
On those nightly walks with her daughter and dog, who sometimes frolics in the museum’s reflecting pool, de-Shalit found herself drawn to the nature around her, from the two owls who hooted at one another until they ended up on the same tree branch, to the prevalent crows who know how to hold a Bamba bag upside down in order to snare any of the peanut buttery snacks still caught at the bottom of the bag.
Other animals were there as well. Jackals so accustomed to human company allowed de-Shalit and her daughter to creep fairly close as they rummaged through the garbage bins, while hedgehogs and porcupines scurried away from their woodlands neighbor.
De-Shalit isn’t a naturalist or a sculptor. She’s a painter from a family of artists, a Jerusalemite who was partially raised in Boston, Massachusetts with her painter mother, Shlomith Haber-Schaim (who has a show opening on October 17 at Jerusalem’s Nora Gallery). She now lives in Nayot, the suburban neighborhood that edges up against the Israel Museum and Valley of the Cross.
The exhibit is situated in a spare room at the Jerusalem Nature Museum in the German Colony, a 19th century Turkish mansion that was turned into a nature museum in the 1960s.
A visit to see “Ironic Nature” offers a good excuse to visit the museum, which also has an outdoor dinosaur sculpture collection in its overgrown gardens, as well as a community vegetable garden. And while there have been murmurs about allowing a new development to take over the museum’s spacious grounds, the museum, for now, still stands.
“Ironic Nature” opened on the Sukkot holiday and will remain open through October 28. Jerusalem Nature Museum, 6 Moliver Street, German Colony.