When he left the Israeli Defense Force eight years ago, Los Angeles artist Tomer Peretz found solace in painting Andy Warhol-inspired pop art. He found the style easy. It was something he could understand—top level art. But he always knew that he wanted to paint something bigger—something that told the story of his experiences in what he considers to be the oftentimes misunderstood Israeli-Palestinian conflict and explained why he was the man that he'd become.
Three years ago, Peretz commenced the Unbreakable Project, a series of life-size art installations depicting Israeli soldiers in camp and combat. There are 35 in total, each a vibrant mixture of reds, blacks, and greens. Some illustrate infantrymen kicking back after carrying out a day-long mission. Others give a face to two soldiers crying over a fallen friend.
It's a collection the 29-year-old Peretz wants to display for the world in a series of exhibitions he hopes will open this October.
"The whole point of this exhibition is to show what I see and what other soldiers see," Peretz told the Daily Dot in a telephone interview. "The media cannot always show every picture, so what you get out of that is skewed and doesn't tell the whole story. I want to show what the media doesn't show."
Peretz launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month to raise the $20,000 necessary to open a 15,000-square-foot exhibition in Los Angeles, one that Peretz hopes will be seen by all walks of life. He wants it to be seen by every race, nationality, and religion—as he articulated on the Kickstarter campaign's description, "every person who still [has] faith in peace."
Hopefully then, people across the world will begin to understand the life of an Israeli soldier.
"Behind every operation, there is a reason," he said of his experiences. "There's a specific reason for every military operation. Behind every movement, every movement, there is a reason. There's no, 'Okay, let's go and kill some Arabs.' It's not that.
"I'm going to show the reasons why those soldiers go into Gaza to fight. Fight for what? We saw the whole story.”
The project has had a profound effect on the IDF veterans, many of whom lost control of their emotions when they first saw the artwork.
"The challenges soldiers face day in and day out are tremendous, and all of that at a fragile and uncertain age," wrote project backer Amit Plachinsky, who currently serves a soldier in the IDF. "I know how hard it is. The cause and the mission of it connects with me on a personal level."
That connection is why Peretz has remained so dedicated to completing the installment. Unbreakable exposes a side of a soldier's reality that's too often misunderstood.
"We are humans, and I'm trying to show our humanity," Peretz said. "I'm not taking any sides. I'm just showing what I saw and what I know, which is the reality of the situation."
- Creator: Tomer Peretz
- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Summary: Israeli Defense Force veteran hopes to show the humanistic side of IDF soldiers by opening an art exhibit of his Unbreakable Project, a series of life-size installations depicting Israeli soldiers in camp and combat.
- Goal: $20,000
- Amount raised as of press time: $1,314
- Days left: 34
- Best buy: For $2,500, backers will receive a canvas print of one of Tomer's paintings with a personal dedication.
- Website: www.theunbreakableproject.com