Amos Amit begins his process by drawing a design on fabric. He then applies hot wax as a reserve. Amit adds dye, then more wax. The Israeli-born batik artist continues the methodical process until he finally removes the wax by ironing the artwork between sheets of paper.
Amit’s finished product is a piece that looks like a painting, but isn’t. The amazing part, he explained, is that batik is not so much an illusion as a technique of disappearance.
“There are a few of us in America, in the art circle, who still do it but we’re all old,” said Amit, 76. “Young people don’t want to invest the necessary time.
Amit was born in a moshav in the State of Israel in 1945. Growing up, his childhood activities included milking cows. Amit earned an agricultural engineering degree from Hebrew University, but told the Chronicle his passions lay elsewhere: “You couldn’t study landscape architecture in Israel, so I came to the United States and I got a master’s degree.
By the time Amit graduated from California Polytechnic State University in 1975, he had already devoted himself to art.
At first, Amit focused on Judaic and ethnic designs. Over time, however, his style changed.
Amit now focuses more on music and nature. He also adopted increasingly demanding techniques.
“I do increasingly difficult things where I need more wax control, more detail,” he said.
Amit is one of nearly 100 artists participating in A Fair in the Park. The annual event, hosted by the Craftsmen Guild of Pittsburgh, will take place September 9-11 at Mellon Park, Shadyside.
This isn’t Amit’s first trip to Pittsburgh.
“I’ve done A Fair in the Park several times. I like the place. I like the people who run it and I like the educated public that comes to the show. They like to know the technique and they like to converse. It’s fun,” he said.
Amit lives in Los Angeles, but spends much of his time traveling for work.
“I do about at least 25 shows a year. I do shows in the winter in Florida, in the spring in Texas and in the summer in the Midwest,” he said.
Amit loves Park City, Utah, and Bethesda, Maryland, but said he has an affinity for Pennsylvania and especially State College.
Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is a show that “I’ve been doing for over 20 years,” he said. “The area is beautiful. The alumni come to appreciate the work.
Selling coins is great, but engaging with an audience is also rewarding, he said.
Engaging in spontaneous conversation is something that dates back to earlier days. Growing up in Israel, people socialized — and still do — differently than here, Amit said. “You don’t need to make an appointment to go to a friend’s house. It’s much simpler,” he said of social interactions in Israel. “That’s the part I miss, and I feel like I cheated my kids a bit. They would have had a much more exciting childhood if they had lived in Israel.
Amit left Israel in 1974. Nevertheless, he remains connected to the Jewish state by returning twice a year to visit his family.
“I love my culture. Maybe I’m not religious, but I love the tradition that I have carried with me throughout these years. And I’m not shy about showing it in my work or in my interaction with people,” he said.
There are Israeli and Jewish artists who “silent” their identity. Amit said he would not, and his work appealed to audiences of various faiths.
While the shows offer a chance to talk about Israel with individuals, the irony, Amit said, is that it’s the Jews “who are the ones who want to talk politics.”
Questions about state policies or practices result in a now familiar response, he said. “I tell them that I live here. I am not involved. Unlike America where you can live in Israel and vote in America, in Israel to vote there you have to live there. So I don’t have the right to say what’s going on there.
Amit is happy to continue talking about Israel when he comes to Pittsburgh. He said he also hoped to enjoy the fruits of spontaneous encounters.
Whether those engagements result in conversations or contracts, both are okay, Amit noted.
“People should come to the show and judge my work for themselves,” he said. “They don’t have to buy, they can come and talk and ask questions.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be contacted at [email protected]