The Artist's Chronology


Gyora Novak and his father 1936 Nahalal, Isreal
 

He was born in 1934 in the village of Nahalal, Israel under the strong creative astrological sign of natal-Aquarius and rising- Leo. His first Hebrew name originated in Aramaic and means “the stranger” / “foreigner”/ “from somewhere else”. His family name, Slavic by origin, means “new”; both names could not have better symbolized his life. Before age two, Novak’s drawing ability was bewildering to those around him, by age 3 ½ his zealot-leftist-Zionist parents joined a kibbutz where children were kept apart from parents, a place which remained in Novak’s mind as “prison time”. Yet prisons, like anywhere else, could provide learning grounds, an initiative direction, which Novak adopted then and never stopped. Most of his learning, various knowledge, skills, and experiencing were self taught. As a child, he raised and raced mailing pigeons, collected endangered nests and eggs of dozens of varieties of birds, alongside various other collections. Hiking to the higher eastern slopes of Haar Haamore Mountain to bring home dozens of the eggplant color rare native tulip to cultivate, or hiking to Megido (Armageddon), just after the heavy rains, which exposed ancient pottery glass and occasional coins. These were his type of childhood journeys.

 

Nahalal, The Village of My Birth

Before age eighteen Novak acquired dozens of farming and other skills, from tending the bee hives to cultivating the richest, well balanced compost, learning alongside dedicated adults, whose life devotion was their work. He became particularly qualified as a shepherd by following his father’s chosen occupation, a following which got Novak to visit and learn much from his father’s friends. They represented a lower Galilee wide range of non-Jewish ethnic groups of different religions, traditions, and origins; Egyptian Cupty , Russian Cherkes, Druz, Beduins, Maronites, tribal Arab peasantry, Horany and others. At age 14, as the War of Independence began, digging ditches in preparation for bombardment, served well for later ,while lying in them as the bombs came down. At age 16, being within the “Gaadnaa” pre-military training of Israeli youth, Novak participated in local, regional, and national marksmanship competitions,

Obligatory military service and later reserve military service of 3 years, included graduating as the “outstanding cadet” of three military schools and serving as Lieutenant in the #890 Commando Paratroopers Regiment, set up early in 1954 by Captain Ariel Sharon to fight terrorism. Crossing borders on retaliation strikes, experiencing battle, and burying fallen friends; such life and death confronting, obvious and frequent as experienced by Novak as a volunteer in the #890, extended into his civilian life, as he had no other choice but to return to the kibbutz after military discharge. He experienced jealousy and threats from members of the kibbutz who felt he was not a team player in that Communist environment, by pursuing his interest in contemporary art. Novak knew of a few other instances where individuals were targeted similarly, and he finally resorted to sleeping with his commando knife and spreading crinkled newspapers at his door as an alarm system. During his time of military duty he did much traversing of the land, an activity which began years earlier in childhood, extending attention to flora and fauna of the wild, of ancient sites, of geology, etc., a much commonly appreciated skill development of “the Holy Land Knowledge”.

Past military and shepherding time, in order to concentrate on his art work, Novak sought physical employment of the least brain requirement, like ditch digging. Through those years, 1955-1961, his speed of production was equal to the output of several men put together, what the Russians titled- “stahanov”.  After military discharge, becoming an artist began in earnest, interrupted by reserve military calls for weeks at a time, being instructed in explosives, Jeep scouting in the desert, warfare, partaking in the 1956 Suez Campaign, etc.

Novak’s following of his interests were all along prompted by an inner conviction, like a trip through the Sinai Desert to learn battlegrounds, to see ancient carvings from nature symbols and hieroglyphs, to the earliest of alphabetic languages. At the foot of Mount Sinai, visiting the oldest monastery on Earth, the Santa Caterina, he climbed the thousands of steps, which the monks set up through the years, to the top of Mt. Sinai in time to experience the breaking of dawn. He wove for himself an Israeli life of immediacy , of nature exploration, and pursuit of antiquities, in duality with scholarship toward his future art interests, all within a strongly guided sense of spirituality, in spite of his atheistic  upbringing. In 1958 after a few weeks looking at art in Paris, Novak considered his own art path to have begun, by leaving behind all obvious influences of antecedents. From which point, simultaneously, various art ideas were done  in groups and different mediums, proceeding at times to extremes of visual separateness, yet all under an identical thumb print;  his philosophical belief of oneness.

Late in 1959 he made a second trip to Paris , paid by the state of Israel, for Novak to represent the country with his art, and partake in symposiums and receptions at the first Bienale of Paris, an international art exhibition of young artists. By early 1961 Novak moved to Paris for one year to learn about the old world art center before coming to live in the new art center in New York City. Novak taught himself to speak French and English as his Hebrew and Arabic had limited use in the art world. His time in Paris became a ground of countless learning options, which Novak enjoyed, and through which he excelled. His Arabic, Russian, Hasidic, Yeddish, and some jazz, his prior musical experiencing, was enhanced by French popular songs, Georgian chants, Ravi Shankar, Japanese Gagaku, and more, in particular the one finger piano of Sati. The truly peasant boy from Nahalal experienced French cuisine and other foreign culinary traditions. He learned of fashion, jewelry, perfumes, wines, design, architecture, gardens, theater, movies, dance and so much more. Those Paris days opened doors to countless subjects, which were only the beginning of a lifetime search of knowledge acquisition, experiencing and practicing many avenues of personal interests.

In May of 1962 he arrived in New York,  which became his main home until moving to London in1976. Those 14 years in New York were extraordinarily intensive , primarily about art, but also in a multitude of life experiences. 1963, being diagnosed with malignant melanoma of no known primary site, with seven successive surgeries, disrupted for months Novak’s vast effort of a painting group of massive scale , already in progress. That period was a true battleground time of total focus on the job at hand– of beating cancer. Years on, it’s perspective was gained by Novak’s inclusion in a study by the American Cancer Society  of 2500 individuals with the same kind of cancer. Within a few years , 2499 participants were dead, and Novak minus any recurrence  is still going strong in 2006.

Nine one man shows within seven years and participation in multi- group shows were main focuses of his time in New York. Summers and holidays, when the art world diverted into non-art activities, Florida became the productive escape, as well as, release from the typically pressurized New York life. Sailing, fishing, and the knowledge of orchids and seaside vegetation, among other subjects, enhanced his time in Florida. Some years of brief wintering in the Alps with expert help, contributed considerably to skiing knowledge and enjoyment. In Japan much of 1965, he produced his art works in Japanese materials and techniques, while experiencing and learning a great deal about traditional Japanese fields of creativity. Knowledge acquired in Japan and through Japanese friends was of particular inexplicable deep emotional connection and meaning, ever powered by the sensation of deja-vu. Food, Kabuki, Bonsai, Kimono, Stone Works, Zen Gardens, Isé, Fabrics, Ceramic, Gagaku, No, Bunraku, calligraphy, and on and on. Experiencing time with few of Japan's "National Treasures", man who's extraordinary creative talent in their life pursuit gained them that uniquely Japanese title of status. Japan time was of learning and of ever present gratitude for it.

Summer of 1966 was devoted to roaming Central America and the Caribbean  in consideration of a future part-time destination, where a passion of breeding and keeping parrots was awakened, and later most satisfyingly was followed. Summer 1967 while looking over the Montreal World Fair, he learned of Israel’s plunge into war and  volunteered that day in the Israeli embassy.  Along with other volunteers, their gesture was not a priority for the war in progress. Crossing Canada, traveling the west coast down to Baja California, and later touring the Spanish, French, and Italian Riviera , were enjoyable time- stalling activities while waiting for the war to end. Finally he was able to take a flight from Rome to Tel-Aviv in order to celebrate the victory, visit friends, and to make trips to areas previously inaccessible to Israelis, a pilgrimage to the western wall and other ancient Israeli sites.

1968-69 involved much time of creating a 3 geodesic dome heaven between the ocean and the inland waterway in Florida . This jewel of a place, gardened entirely with native vegetation , had a most unique system of lighting, both indoors and out, as well as a host of creative design innovations.

Novak’s immense productivity and variety as an artist did not coincide with the art market very well. 1976 was his chosen deadline to abandon involvement with the art market by moving to London, while never stopping to be an artist and to create innovative art works. In earlier visits to London the childhood collections fever came on agai,n in vengeance of considerable scholarship and investment proportion. Numerous collections, some of world’s best known ranking, some of exemplary and unique quality of specific creativity, all came with great recognition and collaboration by and with professionals. They were all within fields of historical arts and crafts of both Victorian  England and Meiji era Japan. Living primarily in England enabled Novak to join, experience and benefit greatly by the pervasive British societies system, joining specific groups in pursuit of subjects of his interest, advancing quickly by the shared knowledge of feverishly committed members. Joining the Camellia Society led to much knowledge gained, having twenty camellias and forty azaleas potted on his London balcony, joining trips and lectures including a return trip to Japan, for the International Camellia Society Conference. Mainly excelling in focus and knowledge through involvement in collections, brought Novak a number of times to the much admired category of the “amateur”  who became the world expert.

Summer of 1979 brought about an extraordinary ten year involvement for “The Jerusalem Gate”, through which vast knowledge in numerous directions was acquired. That effort, involving thousands of people, around Novak’s inspired creation of “The Gate” placed him constantly in the middle of it all.  That period, by it’s magnetism of universal spiritual symbolism, forced Novak’s subconsciously ever guided life passage, overtly toward his own spiritual awareness, belief and practice, incorporating his own ancient traditional practices such as the kabala.

Early in 1992 the “York 1190 Remembered”  efforts began, once again by Novak’s inspired efforts, to which thousands joined to produce truly colossal achievements ,spanning some eight years of collaborations.  Within the period of the York project, a betrayal of Machiavellian proportions engulfed Novak, stripping him from almost all legal entitlement to whatever he possessed. As traumatic and stressful as this experience was, it surely liberated him to leave England and start life over.

1996 Gyora Novak and his Mom visiting the one room shack in the Village of Nahalal, on the Fine's Farm, in which 63 years earlier Novak was born.

A chance visit in October of 1996 to the forested mountains of western North Carolina inspired him to believe that he had finally found his true home. His move there began immediately, hiking the hills to find his mountaintop. In 1998 he began work on his home of geodesic domes, built at 3800 feet elevation of staggering 360 degree views. Anita, a Southern Belle, part Cherokee, a preacher's daughter, whom he met in 2000, became Novak’s love of his life and wife in 2001, a match truly made in heaven, in spite of their utterly diverse backgrounds.

Novak’s photographic memory and total recall within areas of his specific interests and involvements, facilitated so much of his life’s passage . He is truly a Renaissance man whose facility of scholarship, creativity, observation, articulation, adaptability to change, application of feelings by generation of focus toward his next involvement, is too often bewildering to himself no less than to others. If most people savor an episode of their life for being “the best time of their life”, Novak’s such idea within his versatile experiencing throughout his life, is the genuine belief and eager anticipation  that “ the best” is still within his future.

 

As for my sentiment of Nahalal, a large stone exposed by recent rains in the land of my childhood farm was kindly appropriated by Amnon Horesh, a current resident and farmer, and sent to me, being flown to my mountain top home in the hills of Western Appalachia, there to be conspicuously placed on a pedestal at the entry of my home, seen and touched as my mezuzah, both coming and going.

 
 

My Giving

It was Autumn 2007 which presented great changes in my life, in a sense a true restart of my life in the mountains. Somehow within my inevitable surge of reflections, a first time specific comprehensive recognition came to mind and it is here noted:

33 years of my life I gave to causes, 14 in  Kibutz living, and 3 in Israeli soldering. 17 years of life by circumstance and of being compensated by room and board only. Later on, by my own initiation and financing, 10 years of total immersion to create the Jerusalem Gate and 6 years of creating York 1190 Remembered. Toward all this varied life of giving I carry deep satisfaction and pride.

 
 

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