Who we are and What we do

We’re Maya (Gelfman) & Roie (Avidan), artists. We have been working in public spaces, museums and galleries for more than a decade.
Our collaborative public-art project Mind the Heart!, soon entering its tenth year,
aims to promote mindfulness. Mindfulness to what? To ourselves, to our surroundings, to the moment.

Living in a place for a long time, we tend to get so used to things we just don’t really pay attention anymore. We no longer see the beauty and we try to ignore the ugliness. This is especially true in larger towns and cities and their sensory overload – sounds, smells, sights. From every direction, someone is trying to sell you something, so dimming the senses seems almost like a self-defense mechanism. But this also means that we become less connected. We spend more time in our heads than in the world outside, walking or commuting while completely absorbed in our inner world. In the course of a lifetime, this accumulates to minutes, hours, days, weeks, years of not being completely “here”. We miss out on the present, on the fleeting moments, on random magic, on comforting eye contact with a neighbor, on the simple fact that your street changes every day, all the time.

With that realization, all those years ago, we went out into the streets of our hometown Tel Aviv and started to put little red yarn hearts to mark spots that merit attention. We framed them with cut out shoe box leads, like a real-life-check-box of sorts that says: “Look over here!”. We marked the beauty in decay and neglect, the order in chaos, the magic in the ordinary, the soul in things. And while we’ve since expanded to additional motifs, materials and series, the little tangled heart has remained the symbol and at the core of our project to this day. True, it isn’t a perfect heart. It’s crooked, messy, with dripping ends. But it is a heart like all of ours – battle-worn, experienced and beating with life.

The project started in 2009 in the streets of Tel Aviv and has since reached over 100 cities worldwide. From Sydney to London,
from Paris to Bangkok, New York to Hong Kong, from the Israel National Museum to orphanages in Kenya and Uganda.
Now – here in the USA – it’s traveling across the States, on the Road from August 2017 to August 2018.
And for the first time, we’re inviting people we meet to actively partake in Mind the Heart!
Throughout this year we’re handing out thousands of red yarn hearts along with a simple mission: to go and put it out there,
to mark your own spots of significance and share them with the world.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to venture outside with a curious mindset, to become an artist for a day, to join the cause.
You can see the ever-growing Heart Community here.

If the core concept of our work is mindfulness, the leading force of this journey is serendipity.
We believe that to maximize the potential of creating something truly new, one must let go of old patterns and preconceptions and embrace the unknown elements of life. Furthermore, we believe that as artists and as human beings we should practice what we preach. And so, we’ve literally let go of almost all we know and have taken a giant leap of faith.
We’ve dismantled all anchors of familiarity – forwent the comfort of home and studio, gave away our belongings, detached ourselves from the solace of family and friends. We’ve come to a new country, where we live on the road, constantly on the move. Our path is mostly determined by serendipitous encounters along the way.
This year is a long-term artistic and personal experiment – a 24/7 process in which we are subjecting ourselves to constant change by being on the move and initiating meaningful yet random conversations with strangers that serve not only as inspiration for our subsequent creations, but also dictate the next points on our journey. By agreeing to be bounced by the great pinball machine of the unexpected, we allow life to evolve from a one point to next with no certainty. The route is winding on an ever-expanding map. We accept intuition and randomness to be valid tools for creation, just like paint and brushes are. We choose to serve as a blank canvas or a litmus paper if you will – to be and become, react and interact, through art.

A few words regarding our choice to work with tangible materials
Our street installations are created on site with few ingredients – yarn, shoe-box lids, duct-tape, treated foam. The warm fuzziness of wool clashes with the outdoor setting; the handmade letters begin conversations and construct and deconstruct ideas; the duct-tape “stitches” transform cracks in the concrete into soft tissue. Our pieces are usually delicate, minimalist, even fragile. We make them with the same intent we wish for them to reflect – an open invitation to mindfulness. That’s why we work in daylight, bare faced, signing our real names. We don’t try to take over a wall but rather to explore a possibility of integration with the city fabric. Every day this leads to meetings with inspiring new people and to hearing incredible life stories, and for that we are ever grateful.

If you wish to dive deeper into the art theory behind the works, visit this page.

We want to engage with you every step along the way
Be sure to stay curious and stay tuned. Feel free to contact us with ideas for places, people, collaborations, events, murals, and  any creative or serendipitous idea you may have.

Last but not least
If you feel connected to what we do, please consider supporting the project.

You are all invited to take part, influence and be influenced.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and see you on the road! 🙂

~ Maya & Roie