In her installations, the Brooklyn-based artist Yaniv coalesces material fragments—photographs, paintings, scraps from previous buildings, and found materials—into textured clusters that seem like abstracted landscapes from afar and reveal narrative vignettes from close-ups. Her process reflects a preoccupation with transience, impermanence, and the possibilities of perpetual change.
Yaniv has exhibited in solo and group shows at national and international museums and art venues, including the Haifa Museum of Art, Israel; Newark Museum of Art, NJ; Monmouth Museum of Art, NJ; Torrance Art Museum, CA; The State Silk Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia, AIR gallery, in Brooklyn, Purdue University, IN; Zero1 Biennial, San Francisco; and Leipziger Baumwollspinnerie in Germany.
In 2022, her site-specific installation, Inversion, was exhibited in Palazzo Mora, Art Biennale, Venice, 2022. It focused on how new morphologies emerge at the Venice Lagoon as the tidal system reacts to human infrastructure. She has been awarded the Two Trees‘ cultural space subsidy program since 2018. Her work is featured in public and private collections internationally.
In 2018, Yaniv founded the online art publication Art Spiel and served as its chief editor.
She curated multiple group shows in the tri-state area, mostly in university galleries, non-profit venues, and alternative spaces, including LIU Gallery in Brooklyn, JCU Gallery in Jersey City, Chashama, the Boiler in Brooklyn, and most recently, in 2023, at the SpringBreak art fair in NYC.
She also teaches graduate classes in the MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art and as a visitor artist at other universities. Yaniv holds a BA in Psychology and Literature from Tel Aviv University, a BFA from Parsons School of Design, and an MFA from SUNY Purchase.
AF: Hi Etty! We are so excited to speak with you today. To start, we would love to ask you our classic first question: where are you from, and what is the arts community like there?
EY: My art studio has always been in Brooklyn. After graduating with my MFA, my studio was in Bushwick for several years, and in 2018, I moved to DUMBO. The arts community in both these Brooklyn neighborhoods is vibrant, even hectic. In DUMBO, where I am now, there are several arts programs, residencies, and exciting art venues, such as Smack Mellon, which create a stimulating environment where you can see rigorous work and artists I admire.
AF: Please tell us a little more about yourself, when did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
EY: I was born and grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel. Since early childhood, I have been drawing and painting incessantly, but that did not mean I was considering pursuing a career in art. First, I studied literature, psychology, and linguistics at Tel Aviv University, and after graduating, I realized that I wanted to make art full-time. I had an excellent opportunity to study art in NYC at Parsons. I studied Illustration, a natural playfield for me—I loved to pair drawing with text. I started working in NYC as an editorial illustrator for the New York Times and other publications while exhibiting my work in galleries in parallel.
AF: What was your first job? What is an important lesson from it that has carried with you?
EY: My first freelance job in NYC was for the New York Times Book Review. I was still a student at Parsons and got this dream gig to illustrate for the Book Review. I remember working all night, fueled by many black coffee cups. Deadlines for illustrations were very tight—we need this by tomorrow. It was exhausting and exhilarating. I came up with ten options and presented them to the legendary art director, Steve Heller. He made his choice, and it was published. I remember the “high” of seeing my work in print. The publishing bug has not left me—it metamorphosed into Art Spiel, my online publication. While I do not feature my art there, the thrill of seeing articles (text and images) come to life is still kicking for me.
AF: You are a practicing artist that works in installation and mixed media. We would love to hear about your work and what excites you!
EY: I make large-scale, highly textured, intricate installations that reveal new layers as you get closer and spend time with them. I work extensively with recycled materials, including fragments from previous buildings, paper, fiber, plastic, and sometimes found objects. The process of assembling these disparate fragments is long. The time it takes me to extract, add, paint, and edit is evident in each piece and becomes essential in decoding the meaning.
The installations resemble landscapes of organic and natural forms like ocean currents, geological strata, and coral reefs, and sometimes viewers suggest snakeskin. Still, they also reference architecture, archeological sites, and urban life. I enjoy working with multi-layered associations and playing with ever-changing perspectives. The work looks very different from each angle and distance.
Making the work is a discovery process for me, and I love it when it comes through for the viewer so that they can make it their own. This process has a playful aspect, like planting clues for the viewer along the way—narrative snippets from daily life, recognizable or evocative patterns. I often reference thematically related myths and literature loosely and open-endedly. For instance, in the large-scale installation, “Sirens,” I took cues from Haruki Murakami’s mind-bending short story, “The Seventh Man,” a tale of trauma, healing, life force, and destruction—all embodied in an encounter with fierce waves.
AF: What does a regular day look like for you? What does a great day look like for you?
EY: My schedule changes as I wear many hats. I tend to work long hours and dedicate chunks of time to each discipline: making art in the studio, writing, curating, and teaching. I work on my art whenever I can, almost every day, including weekends. Working in the studio for 9 hours without interruption is a great day for me.
AF: You founded the online magazine Art Spiel, which highlights the work of predominantly women-identifying mid-career visual artists, as well as non-profit and smaller art venues. What was your inspiration behind Art Spiel?
EY: I have always enjoyed writing and, as I mentioned, love publishing. When I started working full-time on my art, I needed to get to know life outside my studio walls. At the time, Bushwick was an art hub with a grassroots vibe, and I was curious to get to know it. It was a way to connect with the art community in my neighborhood, and what is a better way to do that than to write about it – the artists, the exhibitions, the art makers, and the shakers? I started writing for Brooklyn blogs, and that was it. I was hooked. Before moving to Dumbo, I decided to dive deeper and start Art Spiel. “Spiel” in German (and yes, Yiddish) is play, game; there was a wink there.
AF: What are some personal or professional goals you have for yourself at this moment in time?
EY: My professional goals are securing funds for Art Spiel and my installation work. I plan to apply for more grants and find other efficient funding methods.
AF: As you know, Art Frankly is a community that cares about job transparency and supporting fellow art professionals. What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
EY: I primarily work within the non-profit art world – university galleries and alternative spaces. This world is a parallel universe to the commercial art arena. My takeaway from many conversations, interviews, and readings is to keep searching for what you want to express as an artist regardless of the current fashion. The outstanding Polish poet and essayist Wislawa Szymborska said it best in her Nobel Lecture: “The moment always came when poets had to close the doors behind them, strip off their mantles, fripperies, and other poetic paraphernalia, and confront—silently, patiently awaiting their selves—the still white sheet of paper. For this is finally what counts.”
AF: How do you think the art world can become more transparent?
EY: Yes, we seem to be in an era where transparency is becoming more significant across industries. However, the art world remains shrouded in many layers of opacity. Here are a few thoughts on possibly alleviating that—Increasing transparency about selection processes and more transparent disclosures about commission percentages taken by art venues such as galleries and online platforms. Perhaps establishing a decentralized digital ledger system that allows multiple parties to have simultaneous access to data on art can help in other aspects.
AF: Etty, thank you for participating in Frank Talks, it has been our pleasure! To finish off, we want to know: If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection?
Agh, only five?
OK: Bruegel the Elder, Max Beckmann, Paula Rego, Nicole Eisenman, Kerry James Marshall