Orna Ben-Ami is an Israeli artist who joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1971 and became the first female military correspondent for the Army Radio station. Following her military service, she was a reporter and news editor for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority radio station and enrolled at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she studied International Relations and History.
Currently based in Israel, Ben-Ami transitioned from working with words to working with materials when she began learning gold and silversmith at the Jerusalem Technological Center. Between 1990 and 1992, she studied sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art located in Washington, D.C., and then continued her studies in Art History at Tel Aviv University. Since 1994, Ben-Ami has been engaged in sculpting and uses iron as the main raw material for her artistic expression.
Ben-Ami has had solo exhibitions in museums all around the U.S., as well as in galleries and museums in Israel, Italy, France, Taiwan, and Mexico. In addition, forty of her outdoor sculptures are placed in public spaces in Israel and Germany. Shimon Peres, the late President of the State of Israel wrote: “Orna, you prove that there is nothing softer than iron, and nothing stronger than a woman.”
Orna Ben-Ami uses welded iron to create highly symbolic pieces that carry universal, local, and deeply personal meanings. As one of the only female welders in Israel, hers is a voice of tremendous empowerment that holds a great deal of cultural value.
Through the iron, Ben-Ami expresses the will to hold on to the identity and memories that her sculpted symbolized objects, while simultaneously rendering them eternal like meaningful metal monuments. While the iron is representative of the physical and emotional weight of a refugees’ journey, Ben-Ami “softens” the iron by cutting and welding it in her own hands, which is reminiscent of the way humans attempt to soften life. The message in her works remains charged both on a personal and collective level. Ben-Ami also creates her iron sculptures combined with the images taken by Reuters’ photographers.
Ben-Ami states that “Artists have to donate their part through their artistic skills for designing a better future. I hope that people are able to find themselves in my art. While it is 100% mine, it also is created for the viewer to be connected through the everyday language of the objects that contain feelings in them.”