Updated: Aug 29, 2021
On the 2nd of August 2021, beloved artist Ruth Horam passed away, at the age of 90.
Ruth was an Israeli painter and sculptor, who crafted art for decades, starting in the 1950s and continuing almost up until her final days, as well as participating in solo and group exhibitions in Israel and abroad. In addition, she worked on public art projects, mainly in Jerusalem, but also in other cities, in which she put the focus on ecological issues, and in particular on the subject of recycling.
Ruth Horam had a special connection to the Midburn community. Ruth was the oldest artist in the community, attending Midburn events as much as she could in her older age. She created two installations in collaboration with artist Nihad Dabeet:
In Midburn 2015, Ruth and Nihad created the sculpture "Woman’s Heart", a 17-foot-tall sculpture made of iron wires, inspired by the iron wires and electrodes of pacemakers inside her body, as seen in her X-ray photo.
In Midburn 2016, they created "Gamal Ha-navi" (The Prophet's Camel), an 8 meter long installation, made of iron, whose name is a combination of "The Prophet's Horse", translated from Arabic and "Gamal Shlomo" (Solomon's Camel) in Hebrew.
On the day of Ruth's passing, Ethan Gusto Bello, who for years had led the Midburn art department, wrote about her:
"There were a lot of artists in Midburn, but there was only one Ruth Horam. We met when she was 85, when I took her on a ride from Jerusalem to the Midburn gala event in 2015. We talked for a long time on that trip - about hippies, psychedelic drugs, coexistence, freedom, creativity and how everything that we are doing here is a thing that has been around for a very long time and about how happy she is that it happens and for her participation in it. Ruth was a real burner, long before there was a Burning Man event.
Ruth, together with Nihad Dabeet, created the sculptures "Lev Isha" (Woman's Heart) and "The Prophet's Camel" in Midburn, as well as olive trees which were placed both in Jerusalem and Germany. She engraved, in her flesh and on her flag, her desire for peace and love of human beings wherever they are.
She was uncompromising and impatient for silly excuses and always pushed for moving forward and continued action. She was blind, yet she saw exactly what was important to see, with clarity unrecognizable by people with normal vision. She knew how to insist and was the most charming nag I have ever worked with. She was a friend who encouraged me to believe in myself and influenced my freedom to be me.
I loved Ruth and she is in my heart forever. "
A few days after her death, we spoke with the artist Nihad Dabeet, who shared some of his acquaintance and special relationship with Ruth:
"Ruth and I first met in 2015 at the 'Olive Tree' exhibition when she was 84. She told me she really liked a sculpture she saw in the exhibition, and I told her it was my sculpture. Ruth immediately said we would create a lot more together, and it really happened.
I fell in love with her immediately. Ruth called me the following day and told me that Midburn in Israel was about to take place, for the first time in the desert (Actually, this was the second Midburn, but the first one to take place in the desert).
She was familiar with the event, having been to Burning Man many years before. Ruth told me about a sculpture she intends to erect in Midburn and so we started creating "Woman's Heart". Ruth made all the drawings based on the pictures of the pacemakers that were implanted in her body, and I built the sculpture based on these drawings.
A year later, in Midburn 2016, we created the sculpture "Gamal Ha-navi" (The Prophet’s Camel), a combination of the name in hebrew "Gamal Shlomo" (Solomon's Camel) and the name in Arabic "The Prophet's Horse". This piece is remembered to me as a fun experience shared by me and Ruth.
Later, we created a lot and dreamed up a lot. Ruth knew how to dream, and I knew how to flesh out these dreams, because Ruth could no longer physically create, but she knew how to dream, to encourage and to appreciate. We loved each other deeply. Getting to know Ruth is one of the great things that have happened to me in my life. I believe that thanks to her I have made great progress as an artist.
Ruth really wanted to be in Midburn, always buying a ticket, sleeping where she could and coming to visit the event during the more comfortable hours. She did not give up, even though she was already very old.
In the five years I have known Ruth we have been able to do huge and meaningful things together. I was the executor, but Ruth was the one who dreamed and brought her amazing energies. Usually, it is not easy for two artists to work collaboratively because often artists have a monumental ego, but we both knew how to put our ego aside and help each other as much as we could.
Ruth and I had been talking on the phone every day. We dreamed and fantasized together. She was perfectly lucid until her last day, but her body had already betrayed her. Art helped her continue to live. When a person is optimistic, creative and a dreamer they live a long life. Ruth has always been optimistic, and she always had plans for the next thing she would create.
I am very sad that she is no longer with us".
In order to get another angle on Ruth's experience from Midburn, and her special connection to the event and the community, we spoke with Rachel Horam, Ruth's daughter:
"Ruth's story with Midburn is fascinating. It started in the 1980s, when my father was given a sabbatical in the United States in order to do research there. My mother went with him and they took the opportunity to travel around there. My mother is a woman who never misses a cultural event, and so they also visited the Burning Man event in Nevada, where her initial connection to the world of the Burn was made. Then there was a long hiatus, and the connection was renewed later when my mother met Nihad at a group exhibition about olive trees. There they became friends, and Ruth offered Nihad to work together. A few days later, she got a call from the Midburn production and was invited to attend the event, because she appeared on Burning Man's list of artists.
The story of the “Woman's Heart” art installation began in the hospital recovery room when she saw a photo of her rib cage with the pacemaker inside of it. She talked to Nihad and they created sketches together for Nihad to flesh out.
Ruth connected very much with Midburn. As Ethan used to say, "Ruth is the youngest adult I have ever met." Those who were near her were ashamed of their lack of youthfulness and curiosity compared to hers. This feeling washed over everyone who was near her in Midburn. The sand, dust and harsh conditions did not bother her at all - in fact, she flourished in Midburn, and everyone took care of her, drove her, took pictures with her, soon making her household name. All In all, she attended three Midburn events. The Midburn event was one of Ruth's highest peaks. She connected easily with people. Generally, there was no living creature with whom she did not connect. She lusted for life, and all her works spoke of nature. It was very ingrained in her consciousness. Ruth just celebrated life at Midburn. "
On behalf of the entire Midburn community, we wish to share in the grief of the family over the passing of this special woman, an artist who inspired the artist community in the country in general, and the Midburn artist community in particular, and who in her old age proved that physical limitations cannot stop imagination, dreaming, and creativity.
May she rest in peace.