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Yuval Golan: From Political Art To Children's Books

Portland-based visual artist Yuval Golan has been making art his whole life. The Israeli native is now writing his memoirs as picture books for his grandchildren with a little help from his famous son, the poster artist Emek. View a slideshow of some of his work.

It’s quite a distance from being an artist on a kibbutz in Israel to a creator of children’s books in Portland. But once you know more about the life of Yuval Golan, the connection makes sense.

“I grew up in a society [where] everything [had] a purpose and the purpose either was to bring about a better world or send a message either through art or through other means, like writing,” says Golan. 

Golan’s upbringing led to an early career in political art, including work as illustrator for Israel’s New Left Party magazine. However, once Golan immigrated to the United States, where political art is usually found in cartoons or comics, he found that his work didn’t resonate in the same way for the American public.

It didn’t stop him from creating. While earning a living as a laborer, Golan continued to work prolifically, creating kinetic sculptures, making prints and painting, including such vast projects as the giant mural entitled “Many Colors — One Desire” on the wall of the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles.

But Golan’s history on the kibbutz stayed with him, throughout his time in Los Angeles and in Portland, where he moved to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He was raised on the stories of those who came before him, and felt it was his role to entertain and educate younger generations with art.

He was also raised with labor as part of his childhood and felt an important lesson was being lost. “Sitting in a classroom was part of it, but working out in the field was as important,” explains Golan, “… It’s to understand where the food comes from and the price that people pay to grow it and harvest it.” 

The result is a children’s book that has a deceptively simple premise. An old man who dislikes the taste of tomatoes from the store decides to plant his own garden. Golan drew the illustrations, and his son Emek, a well-known graphic designer, colored the pictures. The result is a book filled with vibrant visuals, referencing famous pieces of art, as the old man rediscovers the joy of flavors remembered from his youth.

The book conveys the message that some of the best things are what you create yourself. “Art is not real life, it’s a reflection of real life,” says Golan. “If a child doesn’t do it in his own real life, then it’s good but it’s not enough.”

To learn more about Yuval Golan, watch our Oregon Art Beat profile.

Yuval Golan

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