Artist in Residence Magnet

Noa Yaari, Artist in Residence Magnet, 2022. Print on magnet, 2.75” diameter. Toronto.

The opening reception of my art project “Artist in Residence” took place on Thursday, Oct 20, at the Centre for Jewish Studies, York University. In it, I gave everyone a signed magnet as a gift.

Currently, I have more than 300 magnets to give!

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“Artist in Residence” – Opening Reception of Noa Yaari’s Exhibition

Date: Thursday, October 20, 2022

Time: 4 pm

In-person: The Centre for Jewish Studies, 7th floor of the Kaneff Tower on the Keele campus, York University

“Artist in Residence” is an art project Yaari created at home for the Centre for Jewish Studies when the campus was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a series of twenty colourful paintings telling a personal and communal story about fear, faith, isolation, and love. At the opening reception, we will be celebrating this project and the contribution of the arts to our community and to the social and intellectual life on campus.

Noa Yaari, Artist in Residence 18/20, 2020-2021. Ink and acrylic on paper, 23 x 30 cm. Toronto.

Dr. Noa Yaari is an artist and art-based knowledge broker. In her work, she explores combinations of words and images in academic, artistic, and daily practices. She holds a PhD in History and MA in Humanities from York University, and an MA in History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University. In addition to her solo exhibition at the CJS, she is currently working on an art installation at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at the University of Toronto, in which she is a Fellow. Both projects practice art-based knowledge mobilization as well as community building and placemaking on campus.

To RSVP, if you are subscribed to our list serve, please click below. Otherwise, please email cjs@yorku.ca and confirm your attendance in the subject line.

We thank the Alumni Engagement Team, Division of Advancement, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies for their support.

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Why do artists create art? And what circumstances influence their work? 

Art historian Michael Baxandall suggested seeing art as a solution to a problem, where necessities of different kinds “charge” the urge to create it. Accordingly, he saw art historians’ role as giving an account of the factors which brought forth and shaped the finished artwork.

I painted on pages 30-31 in Jan von Bonsdorff’s article “Is Art a Barometer of Wealth? Medieval Art Exports to the Far North of Europe,” where he pointed out the problem of conducting historical research without sources outside of the artwork and visualized Baxandall’s model.   

Following Von Bonsdorff’s point, I’m wondering what art historians can do when the situation is the opposite; plenty of factors and sources relevant to the artwork but hard to grasp and describe.  

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On Children

Several weeks ago, I started the process of adopting a child through the Public Adoption in Ontario. I’m also reading Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (1993) these days. In it, they print Kahlil Gibran’s On Children from the book The Prophet (1923), but they titled it On Parenting. At any rate, I’m bringing it here because it’s beautiful and inspiring. 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
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On the Advantage of Being an All-rounded Emoji

Noa Yaari, All-rounded Emojis, 2022.

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill writes “The man who has been active on campus, whose personality is such that he gets along with all kinds of people and who has done an adequate job with his studies has a most decided edge over the strictly academic student. Some of these, because of their all-rounded qualifications, have received several offers of positions […]” (1960, p. 60).

But an emojis is not a “man.” So, what is the advantage of being an all-rounded emoji? And what is an “all-rounded emoji” anyway?

An all-rounded emoji is an emoji that has more than one image in the system: a close-up and a whole-body one. Having these two kinds of representations reveals more about the emoji. The close-up shows its facial expression and mood; for example, whether it’s happy or about to say something. An image of the whole body shows its body language and attitude; for instance, if it’s playful or grounded.  

An emoji can present its all-roundedness through some complexity between its facial expression and body language. If we look at the pig and the rabbit above, we can see that their facial expression and body language signify different moods, where the faces are more energetic than the bodies. The cat and the dog seem to have the same cheerful state of mind in both their images. Like the pig and the rabbit, the monkey seems to hold varied dispositions. Most noticeable is its ability to turn its body and head in different directions; a posture that cannot be maintained for a long time, and thus, indicates dynamic attention.

So, what is the advantage of being an all-rounded emoji? If the emoji’s interest is to be used as many times as possible, then obviously, having several different images of it increases the times that it is used. In other words, its multi-faceted personality can match different types of moods and can get “along with all kinds of people.”

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Stickers and Emojis are Candies for the Eye


Noa Yaari, Stickers and Emojis are Candies for the Eye, 2022. Toronto.

The arrangement of stickers and emojis on a sheet influences the thoughts the viewers have while looking at them. For example, “what car do I like most?” or “a grape cluster can fall just like a leaf,” and subsequently, “which one would hit the ground first?”

Usually, producers of stickers and emojis spread them thematically on sheets. Stickers may be arranged either at random or in a grid. Mostly, their users have time to ponder which sticker to use and move it from the sheet to a specific spot on a surface. On the other hand, since emojis are digital icons in a “visual vocabulary,” they are always arranged in a grid. Their users need to find them fast, locate them in a specific place within a given line, and click their message out.

Both stickers and emojis are small and easy to handle. They are designed to be moved from their sheets to a different place, where they fulfill an expressive function. This replacement requires basic skills, which make them widely accessible. Stickers and emojis also save time because they are ready-made images. They enable the users to add shape and colour to their communication without creating them. The effortless use of stickers and emojis, and the great value they bring forth, make them extremely useful. 

Lastly, stickers and emojis are cheap; sweet, and cheap (that is, kitschy). Their thematic and visual simplicity, along with their low price, result in them being highly popular products. They are candies for the eye.   

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CRRS Fellows Workshop April 12: William Barker & Noa Yaari

Please join me at the Fellows Workshop at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, the University of Toronto on Tuesday, April 12, 4:00-5:30 pm (EDT).

Follow this link for details and registration to the live zoom session: https://crrs.ca/event/fellows22/

William Barker – Inglis Professor, University of Kings College, and Professor Emeritus, English, Dalhousie University; CRRS Fellow

“Looking at Erasmus: Problems with Portraits”

This short talk looks at the ways a portrait can be used by a biographer or historian to inform us about historical figures. Erasmus was depicted in different media by Quentin Metsys, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Albrecht Dürer. Because of Erasmus’ own importance as well as that of these major artists a lot has been written about Erasmus and his portraits. The deliberately naive question posed by this talk is “what can we learn about Erasmus from these portraits?” Can looking at depictions of his face tell us something about him? What is the truth in the image?

Noa Yaari – Artist, CRRS Fellow

“Art-Based Knowledge Mobilization at the CRRS”

Drawing on others’ scholarship is a well-known practice in academia; it shows the understanding and acceptance of “knowledge” as a communal enterprise. While knowledge moves from one agent to another, and evolves over time, however, it may take unusual forms, which raise questions about its essence and nature. In her talk, artist Dr. Noa Yaari invites us to view “knowledge” as a physical body that has spatial dimensions, which are necessary for its existence and validity. We will focus on her art project at the CRRS to explore shifts in the way we pass, preserve, and produce knowledge. This, in turn, will enable us to evaluate the field of knowledge mobilization and contemporary pop culture to advance the study of the early modern era.

Poster of the Workshop
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Using Emojis as Reactions on Zoom


Noa Yaari, Kissing Emojis on Zoom, 2022. Toronto.

On my December post, I was wondering if the engineers at Zoom can create shadows as a function in Background & Filters. This would add a realistic element to the filters that they already introduced into the platform. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts about the application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom, and in turn, their functionality.

The inclusion of emojis on Zoom opens new possibilities of communication through screens. Unlike their use in text messages or emails, however, their use on Zoom mostly takes place within a conversation, or after a live presentation. In principle, the visual reaction they embody follows spoken words, and may be followed by these or other emojis. What does the ability to “react” through an emoji to spoken, usually fast, communication do? And what can the hundreds of emojis on Zoom offer us in this context?

The ability to react through emojis relates to their amount on the platform. On the one hand, the availability of numerous, various emojis gives the feeling of freedom; since there are so many of them, the only thing that is required from the user is to know what they wish to express and choose the right emoji. The user ought to trust that whatever their message may be, there is an emoji in the collection that can utter it effectively.

On the other hand, the high number of emojis and the minor nuances between them may confuse the user, especially if they prefer to react in a timely manner. For example, note the difference between “kissing,” “kissing­_smiling_eyes,” and “kissing_closed_eyes” (see image above). Imagine yourself using one of them on Zoom; which one would you choose? Which among the three would be closer to what you feel and want to share?

The application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom raises questions about how the company sees the activity on its platform. The emojis of “raise hand” and “clap,” for instance, are elegant visual solutions for a speaking environment. Moreover, they have become icons that can easily symbolize a period in our history. As such, their functionality goes beyond the platform, creating cultural codes on a global scale. How does Zoom see the functionality of the many other emojis? In other words, how does it see its users finding the time – the right time – to use them?   

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Bend With Me Sway With Ease

Michael Bublé

The Cover of Michael Bublé’s 2003 Album

Over the last month, I’ve allowed myself to develop a new addiction; Michael Bublé’s version of Sway. In fact, I’m listening to it as I’m writing these very words. I can listen to it forever.

Playing the song in a loop on YouTube gave me the opportunity to look carefully at the cover of Bublé’s 2003 album in which Sway is recorded. In it, most interesting is the relationship between Bublé’s eyes and the tittle over the “i” in “Michael.” To be accurate, it’s not Bublé’s eyes, but rather his pupils, the reflections of light on his corneas just above them, and the eyelash of his right eye. The combination of the dark holes, bright reflections, a wave of hair, and a little dot creates an intriguing composition. Why?

First, since Bublé’s head tilts downward, it seems as if he might collide with his written name. On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to look at it; on the other hand, the stretch of the name across the whole image emphasizes its two-dimensional nature. Nevertheless, Bublé looks at something beyond his name. Because he is so illuminated, he seems like the moon observing Earth. At any rate, because the tittle and the two bright reflections on Bublé’s corneas resemble one another, the tittle seems to gravitate them, and ultimately Bublé, toward itself.

Second, the “i” in “Michael” looks like a candle to me, with the tittle being the flame. This impression is strengthened by Bublé’s eyelash that moves upward, which could result from the heat the candle emanates. If the tittle can gravitate and heat at the same time, Bublé should be careful with his eyes. Suggesting that they are at risk makes this image intriguing.

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Animated Filters and Shadows on Zoom


Noa Yaari, Self-Portrait with a Filter and Shadows on Zoom, 2021.

I became aware of the animated filters on Zoom quite recently. They are one of my highlights of 2021. Engineers at Zoom, could you develop shadows for the objects that follow the user’s face? 

Happy New Year!    

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