Behind the Scenes of “The Operator”

‘The Operator’ discusses the background noises which may motivate or destroy a person.

~ Sharon Webber-Zvik

To close this week’s “Behind the Scenes” theme, today we bring you a guest post from Sharon Webber-Zvik, who designed the image used on our Fall 2018 seasonal catalog and the forth coming title Heading Home: Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality, by Shani Orgad.

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The Symbolism . . .
The little girl on the top of a complex mechanism operates the entire thing simply by using her voice- ordering her wishes and demands, while the female workers keep the system intact and functioning. On the other hand, they need to make sure that the little girl won’t break anything with her ambitions. The sweet, ripe, oranges are the perfect cog-wheels of childhood memories, symbolizing the strive for perfection and ambitiousness. The entire system is welded into the grown woman’s mind, while two groomed female hands are irritating both the young girl and the woman’s mind into acting and making sure that this system will continue working. The free happy women in the back symbolize the freedom of independence, ignoring all social rules and cultural restrictions.

In my art, I mostly use 40–50’s women portraits since, in my perspective, it was a significant intersection decade of the women’s fight for equality—from the perfect housewife to a factory worker—striving to be a provider. However, at the moment the war ended, they were sent right back home to free the positions for men.

The Artist . . .

Photo by: Limor Tzel Gozlan

I have the great privilege to describe feelings and thoughts through my art. I consider myself a feminist. I highlight and discuss the topics that matter to me, topics or issues that should have been facts or already assimilated as a way of life.

I was a young girl growing up listening to the stories of my grandmothers— two strong working women. The labor of the picking oranges while being pregnant, being an orchard worker to provide for her family is a life story of one of my grandmothers, that had a significant impact on me as a young girl. I had a very clear visualization of the woman I wished to become: strong, motivated and with a powerful statement. As an adult with children of my own, sometimes I need to turn down that “little girl’s voice” and let her understand that in real life most of the time the circumstances win—heartbreaking, yet realistic. I created “The Operator” while having my fourth toddler running around me as the free spirit she is, made my frustration of not being able to work with the peace of mind I wished for myself almost unbearable.

Having “The Operator” on the cover of Professor Shani Orgad’s book is such a great honor and a fantastic completion and emphasis to the ideas we both discuss, and I appreciate this opportunity to share my perspective. I create from the most emotional place in me, hoping to touch people’s hearts, hoping to provoke thinking, praying to change some people’s minds.

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A note from cover designer Lisa Hamm, Senior Designer at Columbia University Press

I was very fortunate to be directed to Sharon’s work by the author. The subject matter and style of “The Organizer” were perfect. I chose a typeface that had character and a handmade quality. I have to admit, the rest wasn’t that hard. (It doesn’t often happen this way.)




1 Response

  1. Thank you all so much. It is inspiring to observe and absorb this heart touching work by Sharon Webber-Zvik. I look forward to read Shani Orgad’s new book. It is unfortunate that we are still in need to discuss EQUALITY, but without a doubt it is absolutely necessary. Keep on the good work. There is no better way than combining thought provoking and integrating academic work with good art.

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