What can a child’s soft toy teach us about empathy? According to Israeli graphic artist Noma Bar, a lot. Best known for his minimal 2D illustration work and his collaborations with high profile authors, magazines and newspapers, Bar’s latest project has seen him venture out into the world of 3D art – more specifically, art involving stuffed toys.
Titled Transitions – and originally featured in Issue 68 of Un Sedicesimo Magazine – this new project was conceived during a routine clearout of household clutter at Bar’s home in London, when the artist came across a collection of his now-teenage daughters’ stuffed animals. He recalled using them for bedtime stories in years gone by, when he would “give these toys different personalities and transform them by tying their hands and legs together to create new characters”.
Rather than giving them away (and the memories associated with them), he decided to return to this playful pastime and create a series of artworks in the process. Using “tiny poppers” to refigure and reshape each toy, Bar turned the original characters into entirely new ones: “Miffy’s tail becomes the nose of [a] mouse; a cute duck becomes a guilty puppy; and a monkey becomes a happy hippy.”
According to Bar, the process itself was fairly straightforward. For some of the toys he used “a natural turn, from the front to the back”, while others involved using “the full potential of the toy’s flexibility, recreating them in a more sculptural way”. Each toy was then given the proper facial expressions and features using thread, buttons and plastic eyes.
The end result is a collection of toys that each offer two characters in one. The original forms are retained and still accessible, while new ones have been unlocked through Bar’s sculptural manipulations. He explains: “Both sides of each toy are active. It was important for me to keep it the same way that we used to play with them.”
He goes on: “Today, we live in a world where opinions are too often singular and polarised, yet compassion for a spectrum of beliefs is a vital part of humanity. We must all try harder to turn situations upside down and inside out to understand the perspectives of others. There are always more than two sides to any story.”