For those unaccustomed to abstract art, Yael Zahavy-Mittelman has an exercise she uses to initiate them. The Bothell-based artist instructs newcomers to close their eyes and imagine a black or white canvas, and then place colored lines on it. Add some shapes, and finally patches of colors, rearrange them again and again, and you have the basis for a world that the artist works in.
“What I’m doing as an abstract artist, I’m really dealing with lines, shapes, patches of color,” she said, standing in her basement, walls lines with dozens of works of art leaning against mattresses. “Abstract is a new world, it’s the only way an artist can really express what’s inside them,” she said.
Her paintings range in size from small, 12-by-12 inch works to massive canvases covered in vibrant colors, wandering white lines, obscured human figures and loaded with stories.
Largely, Zahavy-Mittelman said her works flow naturally, often times themes and ideas appear in them, but she hopes her paintings are an opening line rather than the final word.
“I would like people to have a conversation about art,” she said. “It’s an invitation for a conversation.”
Her work has been featured from New York to Israel, and regionally from the Seattle Convention Center to art galleries in Bellevue and Monroe and beyond.
Since she was a girl, Zahavy-Mittelman has been surrounded by art, as her mother is an artist too. She said she started drawing with chalk before moving on to paint.
“Art was all around me because the walls were covered in my mother’s art,” she said. Zahavy-Mittelman received a masters in art therapy from George Washington University, and has worked at area hospitals before retiring for health reasons.
Now, she has made art, and raising her three children a full-time career, with her husband Sharon Mittelman.
“I don’t stop working,” she said. “Either doing the art, or doing the shows.”
From her art studio on the second floor of their home, she also gives lessons.
With her art’s focus on interpretation and conversation, she hopes to not only guide children artistically, but to expose them to a complicated world she says cannot be boiled down to strict lines of “black” and “white.”
“If I could, in their young minds, (get them) to consider the idea that there is way beyond what they’re taught,” she said.
As for her own work, Zahavy-Mittelman’s older pieces are generally color-based, with the aforementioned lines, shapes and colors taking the lead and generally, as she describes it, painting themselves.
“Any element in the painting would look completely different if you eliminate any part of it,” she said.
Over the years, she has used various techniques ranging from paint throwing, to including old jewelry sent by her family in Israel in her works.
Currently, she’s using canvas with rectangular insets, collage, jewelry and ink drawing to create intricate pieces, with many smaller “stories” contributing to the overall piece.
“It has to have a bit of everything, because that’s what makes a good story,” she said.
Zahavy-Mittelman said she hopes her art creates a space for people to think about the world.
“It’s something to inspire your day, to think about it differently,” she said. “It’s not an image that somebody puts a spoon to your mouth, you have to think about it.”
Her art can be viewed at yaelsart.com, or by personal viewings at her home. All her pieces are also for sale, she said.
As for creating art, Zahavy-Mittelman said anyone can do it.
“You don’t need to be an artist to do art,” she said. “It’s always your own version.”
Yael’s art can be seen at the Northwest Collage Society 2016 Open Winter Shop at the Washington State Convention Center until March 26, the Saaski Gallery in Monroe from Feb. 4 through 8 and the EarthenWorks gallery in Laconner.