(L-R) Although the Artist Matters gallery is small, it provided enough space for a stunning representation of Mervat Elias’ works. “The Last Supper (Passover Seder)” wall display is the pièce de résistance of the exhibit. The 12 disciples on each side of a golden wreath depicting Jesus are not named. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is ignominiously placed below the others.
(below, center) Elias adds some “living art” to her exhibit.
(Below) Two-time Oscar winner, director and Topanga resident Alexander Payne added another piece of Elias’ work to his collection.
(Bottom) “Veronica’s Veil.” Veronica was moved seeing Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary and gave him her veil so that he could wipe his forehe
It was a privilege to meet ceramicist Mervat Elias last month and view her exhibit in a modest gallery named Artist Matters in the Topanga Creek Courtyard.
Her hand-built ceramic sculptures, especially her depiction of “The Last Supper (i.e. The Passover Seder), compelled an introduction to the community. Faces—some indiscernible, others clearly representative of each of the 12 disciples—were arranged horizontally along the wall with a golden wreath in the middle depicting Jesus. Elias chooses not to name the disciples because, she says, “Each person sees them differently.” The disciple, Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is ignominiously placed below the others.
The Last Supper (Passover Seder)
On the shelf below are the loaves of bread that Jesus broke at the Passover Seder the night before his cruifixion. That gesture became the ritual of Holy Communion in Christian worship. It is believed that Mary Magdalene was present at the seder so the scarves beneath manifest the alluring mystical presence of the feminine.
Elias was born and educated in Israel in the region between the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth, where, she says, “I often walked where Jesus walked.”
Her career began in 1992, where she was an art and ceramics teacher at Sakhnin College for Women, Upper Galilee, Israel. From 2006-2016, she was the Museum Curator at Yegal Alon Museum, Kibbutz Ginosar, Israel, and an instructor for “Spring Encounters,” a program that brought together Jewish and Arab youth and adults through art. She also facilitated and guided workshops for tolerance and respect for the “Other,” at Yegal Alon Museum, Sea Of Galilee, Kibbutz Ginosar. She is also a stone sculptor of “monumental” art. (See Page 3 for photo)
She was also a Sexual Abuse instructor and specialist who traveled throughout the villages of Galilee to provide rehabilitative clay workshops for teenage girls who experienced sexual abuse in the family.
Elias’ art draws its inspiration from her Christian faith, thus the name, Magdalena Clay, after Mary Magdalene, who according to Gospel accounts, was cleansed by Jesus of seven demons and became a disciple. Mary also witnessed the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus and, famously, was the first person to see him after the Resurrection, thus elevating women’s status and position in a subtle yet grand way.
Smaller works depict Elias’ other passion, Earth Art, such as small ceramic scarves glazed with muted earth tones are surprisingly trimmed with lace, while vessels and wall hangings depict horses, deer and other flora and fauna. All pieces are hand-built and hand-painted by the artist.
Elias’ works have been exhibited in many galleries and museums throughout Israel. She was invited five times to Israel’s prestigious Bi-Annual Ceramic festival in Tel Aviv, and won the 2003- 2004 America-Israel Foundation Award for solo exhibition. She has recently begun to exhibit in the United States.
She and her husband, Hanna, and their eight-year-old son live in Topanga. Mervat is seeking a permanent studio along TCB for her ceramic work, exhibition, and clay workshops for adults and children.
For information: Mervat Elias, (559) 586-1082; MervatHanna70@gmail.com; Instagram: @mervatelias.