Photo Credit: Hana Levi Julian
Artist Robin Antar at the 2014 Holiday House NYC gala opening.

What does the child of Brooklyn Syrian Jews have in common with Manhattan glitterati on a freezing cold night in an Upper East Side mansion?

Diamonds and other stones. Art and design.

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This past week New York’s top interior designers gathered in a house on East 63rd Street and Fifth Avenue to celebrate the season and raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Among the artists whose creations were requested by designers who contributed their skills to the cause was sculptor Robin Antar. Her work had been noticed by designer Michael Tavano during a show at the Waterfall Mansion, where some of her other pieces are still on display.

Tavano removed her “detached retina” from that show for the room he created at Holiday House NYC. The event shows off the best in interior design and holiday entertaining, and is open to the public from now until December 21. Tavano’s eye-catching room was packed on opening night.

Few of those in their suits and evening gowns at the gala, however, realized the petite Antar wielded a jackhammer and a seven-inch diamond blade saw to carve the stone for her larger-than-life-size sculpture.

“I did it just before I went into surgery for a detached retina,” Antar told JewishPress.com in an exclusive interview. “It was my interpretation of vision.”

But Antar takes the long view in her art. She began her love affair with stone carving as a Brooklyn teenager and created as her first piece a graceful alabaster swan which she has kept in the family collection.

She is also known for the sleek silver Sephardic Torah cases she creates. Not one is left sitting on a shelf unused. The first was cast from a mold formed from a limestone sculpture of a prayer shawl draped on two “shoulders” of the Western Wall.

Little did she know that some day she would use that same mold as the basis for a one-of-a-kind tribute to her youngest son that only an artist mother could produce – sadly, for a tombstone. Antar’s son passed away last year at age 26 of a drug overdose after years of struggling to overcome emotions from early childhood abuse suffered at the hands of a daycare operator. Two more sons — a married businessman and an artist with a special flare for color and design — carry on the family traditions.

Salt from the tears that were shed for the life cut short eventually was poured (in a virtual sense) into unique semi-precious salt cellars she now creates for the light and joy of the Sabbath table. Antar had a huge pile of stone chips left over from other sculptures carved from stone such as blue onyx, rose alabaster and honeycomb calcite, and “didn’t want to waste them,” she says. What began as an experiment is now functional art for the interiors market, with those and larger table bowls both much in demand.

But her pride and joy is the Realism in Stone series, she says; a line of art she calls the “virtual record of contemporary culture” in America.

“I ask myself, ‘Will a bottle of Heinz ketchup really exist in another hundred years?’ and then I begin to see the product emerge from the stone,” Antar explains. Different sculptures are carved from different types of stone, depending on what she is creating – but all require heavy power tools that demand precision in their use.

“You cannot do this work without the right equipment,” Antar warns. “Don’t even THINK of starting to carve stone without a face mask for breathing, and especially not without goggles to protect your eyes.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

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