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Balinese Wood Carving

Wooden Carved “Huppa”
Bali, Indonesia 

The Zagars visited Bali, Indonesia sometime between 1989 and 1991. During that visit Isaiah also met a family of artists and paid them to carve a traditional Balinese house structure for him. The Zagars found these carvers and were interested because their style was unlike most of the other carvers in Bali. The carvings came from a notebook of Zagar’s drawings he left with them. You can find many of Zagar’s themes in the work, like four-armed self portraits and the phrase “Art is the Center of the Real World.” The structure now is in the sculpture garden and serves as an alternative Huppa, used in traditional Jewish weddings. Julia and Isaiah Zagar were remarried under the structure in 2006.

Many Balinese artists were inspired during the 1930s by western artists who visited Bali. Russian-born German painter Walter Spies and Mexican artist and anthropologist Miguel Covarrubias were two of the main people who started to introduce Bali to the Western world. Balinese carvers then started to create more work for artistic and commercial purposes instead of just religious purposes. They were very adaptable to trying different styles and making things that they knew they could sell.  

Isaiah has said that a Canadian man visited Bali in the early 20th century (probably 30s or 40s) and instructed from a book about the carvings of the Tlingit and Haida tribes from the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. The man who originally started creating those carvings in Bali from the Tlingit and Haida tribes taught the patriarch of the family who carved the huppa. (He was an old man when Isaiah met him.) 

Isaiah used the huppa in a show he was part of at the ICA in 1991 (Philadelphia Art Now: Artists Choose Artists). Isaiah later made molds of the carvings on the huppa, so you will see the same imagery in ceramic and cast pieces throughout the Gardens. 

Huppa by Unknown Artists; Bali, Indonesia
Stained wood
119h x 116w x 109d in
302.26h x 294.64w x 276.86d cm
Location: Outside