Stories that Portraits Tell: Ilan Ramon
WHAT ARE WE MADE OF?
Art can be a powerful tool in telling stories, sharing specific narratives and insights of a person or place. The reflections help build awareness of not only what stories are told, but how they are conveyed. Using the art and methodology of popular Israeli artist Hanoch Piven, we can explore Israel’s culture, values, and history, as well as our own personal connections to Israel.
Piven is a contemporary Israeli artist whose whimsical portraits tell stories with depth and complexity. His work depicts prominent people using an array of seemingly random objects—each of which carries meaning. It’s amazing how much we can learn about a person from Piven’s portraits.
Piven created this video just for you, recorded in his studio in Jaffa, Israel. In it, he describes how he uses “the language of objects” for creative exploration and learning. Each object tells a story, and when the story is not immediately clear—great conversations ensue!
ISRAEL'S FIRST ASTRONAUT
On the occasion of SpaceIL’s historic mission to the Moon, Piven created a portrait of Israel’s first and only astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, a member of the team aboard Space Shuttle Columbia that went into orbit in 2003. Tragically, Ramon was killed, along with the other six members of the Columbia crew, when the Space Shuttle exploded upon re-entry.
Through this portrait, we explore both Ramon’s relationship to Judaism and Israel, as well as Israel’s relationship to space exploration.
Ramon spoke frequently about his feeling of pride at being a Jewish astronaut, as well as one who represents Israel. He’s the first astronaut to request kosher food in space, and he brought a number of Jewish and Israeli objects into space, including mezuzot and a Torah that survived the Holocaust.
Looking from the space shuttle, Ramon and another astronaut commented that the view reminded them of John Lennon’s song, Imagine, adding:
“Earth is one unity and no borders are seen.”
Each carefully selected piece carries meaning and many are connected to the objects he brought with him to space. Explore the portrait below by clicking on each object:
- Capturing Ramon’s focus and determination, his eyes are created by the same Magen David (Stars of David) attached to Israeli Air Force planes.
- The energy captured within a battery sits in the middle of his face.
- The two tiny Torah books that form his mouth represent the Torah scroll he brought with him to space, and his eyes are framed by the mezuzot he transported.
- The spacesuit includes Israeli Air Force wings, the Blich High School logo where Ramon’s children went to school, Megillat Atzmaut (Israel's Declaration of Independence), a navigational compass, and patches of both NASA and the Columbia mission. The Israeli flag is affixed on Ramon’s sleeve.
- He also took with him “Moon Landing,” drawn in Theresienstadt by Petr Ginz. A copy of the picture is on his uniform here, as well as an ancient shekel coin.
- Ramon’s neckpiece is made up of Middle Eastern maps, representing Ramon’s work as the navigator on the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor bombing mission.
- The zipper of his spacesuit is made up of a recorder, representing music, inspiration and all that can’t be captured in an object.
- In the background, we see the solar system, including Earth. Approaching the bright full Moon, we see SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft, carrying the Tefilat Haderech (Traveler’s Prayer).
1. What objects do you see in the portrait and what do they tell you about Ilan Ramon?
2. What themes do you see reflected?
3. Where do you see Judaism in this portrait? Leadership?
WHAT WOULD YOU BRING TO SPACE?
It’s time for your mission now! Place a wide array of random objects on a table and browse through the items. Alternatively, you can complete this mission digitally (see Virtual Piven Workshop below).
You are representing yourself and your community as you explore beyond our world. What would you bring to space? Here is an opportunity to share things that matter to you.
The task is to make a portrait of yourself, so consider what stories you want your portrait to tell. As you create your portrait, consider the following questions:
- What would you bring to space?
- What's the significance of these objects to you?
- Where do you see Israel in your portrait?
- What would you title your portrait?
PLAY AND LEARN ONLINE
SpaceIL, The iCenter, and Jewish Interactive partnered to bring you a series of games about the Moon, space, and Israel’s Beresheet lunar mission. This game introduces Ilan Ramon (and incorporates Piven's portrait):