Signals from the Studio… Artist Roey Victoria Heifetz on Layered Confessions

Audio interview with artist Roey Victoria Heifetz, conducted in the spring of 2020.

Roey Victoria Heifetz, Confessions, 2014, installation view, St. Johannes Evangelist Church, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Joachim Schultz.

Roey Victoria Heifetz, Strange Fruit, 2020, self portrait.

In this new segment of Artis’ audio interview series, we speak with Berlin-based artist Roey Victoria Heifetz about honesty and authenticity in the current age of social media culture, and how her experiences as an immigrant, and transgender woman, inform her art practice.

Artistically, personally, and emotionally, I am very out there. I am very exposed. My art is mostly telling an emotional story. It’s not a historical narrative, or something else….You see everything in my drawings…I’m erasing a lot, using the charcoal, ink, and pencils. When I erase, you see all the layers. -Roey Victoria Heifetz

Roey Victoria creates large-scale, textured drawings of people who identify as transgender, often layering portraits of acquaintances with fictional subjects, and exaggerating human features such as skin and muscles. She poses intimate questions in her practice about the aging body, gender, desire, insecurities, and regrets. In this interview, Roey Victoria talks about two of her projects in relation to mental and physical transitions she’s experienced, migrating from Israel to Berlin, and transitioning from a man’s body to a woman’s body. Upon moving to Berlin, one of her first projects, Confessions (2014), was an installation of drawings presented in a former church building (pictured above). Roey Victoria invited visitors to share stories with her about shame, blame, or other feelings they have about their body, as confessions. Roey Victoria also reflects on her solo exhibition at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Victoria (2016-2017), titled after her grandmother, Victoria, who is one of her artistic influences. In the exhibition, thirteen large portraits on paper hung from the ceiling, exposed and touching the floor of the exhibition space. The portraits presented emaciated figures with voluminous hair, elongated limbs, stretched poses, exposed muscular details, direct eye contact, and other visual abstractions, agitating a normative understanding of beauty and appeal. Parsing out social expectations of how we present ourselves publicly—in person, and on social media—from the realities of how bodies look and feel, Roey Victoria talks about finding emotional presence and an honest narrative at a time when social norms often impel us to do quite the opposite.

This interview was conducted in the spring of 2020, and edited for conciseness. It is part of Artis’ audio series, Signals from the Studio…, where we speak with artists from Israel, and delve into current topics in contemporary art and culture that they address in their practice. Signals from the Studio… is produced by Artis and made in partnership with journalist, urbanist, and writer, Yonatan H. Mishal, who hosts the interviews.

Participant Bios

Photos (left to right): Roey Victoria Heifetz, photo by Katja Harbi. Yonatan H. Mishal, photo by Yuli Gorodinsky.

Roey Victoria Heifetz is an artist from Jerusalem, living and working in Berlin. Heifetz has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions internationally, including solo exhibitions The Teacher’s Nap, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Victoria, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and Third Body, Artist House, Tel Aviv, upon receiving the Ann and Ari Rosenblatt Prize for Visual Art in Israel. Heifetz has participated in residencies at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; The Fountainhead, Miami; and 18th Street Art Center, Los Angeles. Roey Victoria Heifetz is a grant and scholarship recipient of Lotto Stiftung, Berlin; Mifal Hapais Art Scholarship, Israel; Rudolf Augstein Stiftung, Germany; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Germany; Artis; and the Artist-Teacher Award, Culture Ministry, Government of Israel. Additionally, in 2018, Heifetz received the Ann and Ari Rosenblatt Prize for Visual Art in Israel, and was a finalist for the Marianne Werefkin Award for Women Artists. Heifetz studied at the Bezalel Academy for Arts and Design in Jerusalem (BFA, MFA) and at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, USA.

Yonatan H. Mishal is an urban explorer and writer, based in New York City. He currently works with the United Nations, in the department of global communications, and as a correspondent for Erev-Rav arts and culture magazine in Israel. His writing includes investigative journalism, commentary, reviews, interviews and art critique. His ongoing project in the past ten years of conducting interviews with curators and artists, aims to draw a real-time, first hand picture of the Israeli art scene.

To learn more about Roey Victoria Heifetz' art practice

Drawing the Fragile Vulnerability of Transitioning Bodies
by Yonatan Amir, Hyperallergic (January 2017)

About transgender communities

Readings recommended by artist Roey Victoria Heifetz

A Brief History of Transgender Issues
by Stephen Whittle, The Guardian (2010)
A Lost Piece of Trans History
by Matthew H. Birkhold, The Paris Review (2019)