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Interview with Dov Lederberg

August 22nd, 2016

Interview with Dov Lederberg

Please introduce yourself.
I am an emerging artist in the context of creating works or gestalts whose various meanings “emerge” to my audience (and to myself) with repeated viewings. I am a chassidic artist, first of all via genetics, being a direct scion of the Maggid of Mezeritz, for whom I am named, and of course via my studies and contacts with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and other great teachers.

How long have you looked at yourself as an artist?
During my teenage and early college years, I was involved with English Lit and creative writing. This is going back 55 years. My turn to the visual arts came with my exposure to lyric “underground” film-making and I became deeply involved in the Sixties art scene in the Lower East Side in NYC. Since my aliyah to Israel in 1967, I worked as a documentary film director for Israel TV and other venues and in addition created many video art compositions.
My switch to painting started about 20 years ago with my marriage to the world-class artist, Yael Avi-Yonah, OBM.

What is the relationship between your Judaism and your art?
My brand of Judaism (call it Chassidus) is a strong catalyst for innovation and renewal and certainly influences and inspires my art, even though the finished canvas may not seem overtly Jewish or what most people call Jewish Art. For example, some of my best ideas have come to me, when I am immersing in the waters of the mikve or ritualarium.

What message do you like to convey to viewers through your art?
I like to create art that invites interaction and discovery and leads to expanded consciousness and even intimations of a mystical experience. To enhance this I like to use 3-D Avatar glasses or allow the painting to be turned upside down, revealing new perspectives.

How do you integrate art into your life?
There is Jewish Art and there is the Art of Being a Jew. I try to juggle both artistically.

Share a recent project.
My last major project was a series of montaged photography, called Catharsis, dealing with the bereavement period after the passing away of my dear wife, Yael Avi-Yonah OBM.

Who or what are your influences/inspirations? Judaic, Artistic and other.
My major life-changing influence was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I also was fortunate to find and connect with in Israel great Torah teachers, such Harav Adin Steinzalz and Harav Yitzchok Ginsburgh.

Please recommend another admired artist.
My wife, Yael Avi-Yonah, OBM.

What is your advice for emerging artists?
Be true to your inner vision and not cater to what you think others may like or find acceptable. Before beginning a painting be like Nachson before the Red Sea and plunge into the waters up to your neck and with G-d’s grace the Sea and the See will open before you. Be alert to serendipity and realize that all is Hasgacha or Divine Providence.

Please summarize yourself in one sentence.
I am one of the pioneers in what I call the Third Temple Messianic art movement, the return of prophecy and envisioning to Israel.

In your definition; What is Jewish Art ?
Jewish Art should be faithful to its root in Hebrew – אמן – which shares a nexus of meaning to אמונה – faith and אמת – truth and נאמן – faithful.

Links to TV interviews:

Art Prints

Kosher Sex

March 2nd, 2016

Kosher Sex

Kosher Sex
Judaism does not view sexual relations in the proper context as something dirty or sinful, but as an experience with the potential for expanded consciousness and even the possibility for mystical revelation. This is implied in the midrashic interpretation of the Song of Songs and throughout the Zohar, which likens the relation of G-d to his faithful to that of groom and bride, a man and his wife.
There is a problem for me as an observant (and observing) Jew to visualize this metaphor on canvas but I am helped by the possibilities of abstract and gestalt art which can elevate the so-called "animal act" into something more sublime and even transcendental.

The Cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant - A Visual Paradigm for Dialogue

March 2nd, 2016

The Cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant - A Visual Paradigm for Dialogue

The Torah portion of Terumah in the Book of Exodus discusses the details of the Sanctuary in which God dwells. The first vessel related to in detail in this portion is the Ark of the Covenant, above which are the two CHERUBS (Exodus 25: 10-23). While the Holy Ark contains the Torah--God's eternal wisdom--His voice and ongoing directives emanate from between the joined wingtips of the two cherubs, who symbolize the consummate love of delights between God and the people of Israel.
Not always were the cherubs in a state of harmony, at times they "moved themselves" back-to-back and in opposition, reflecting God's anger when Israel did not follow the ways of the Torah, according to the teachings of the Midrash. The concept of the “changing faces” of the cherub statues became for me a stimulus and visual imputus for my Dialogue paintings, which has been a major preoccupation of mine for the last decade, based on a simple illusionist form of two cartoon faces in confrontation.
Its artistic expansion and development may have been also inspired by my studies of the teachings of the noted philosopher, Martin Buber (the famous I-THOU / I-IT paradigm) and its application in modern Gestalt psychology. The I-THOU Dialogues show two faces in harmony and balance,
while in the I-IT paintings (which I call Anti-logues), the second face is diminished or non-existent.

SLIDE SHOW on the Dialogues:

Kabbalah and Art and Healing

March 2nd, 2016

Kabbalah and Art and Healing

Kabbalah is the various teachings dealing with Jewish mysticism, its prime source being the Sefer HaZohar, the Book of Splendor, based on the teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the Second Century. The common translation of the word Kabbalah is "receiving", implying that the teachings were originally and are still best transmitted from master to disciple. Another interesting variant meaning from the same Hebrew root word K-B-L and its first appearance in the Torah refers to the parallel loops "maKBiLot haloola-ot" on the edges of the curtains in the Mishkan (Exodus 26:5)
and which mystical teachings interpret to "find parallels" or analogues
between the dimensions of
Space, Time and Soul.
Kabbalah and Art may seem to be contradictory, because of Judaism's long iconoclastic tradition, the only "art" seemingly tolerated being the artisanship of ritual objects, such as candelabra and spice boxes. However, the text of Zohar, is very stimulating visually, always enjoining the reader "to come and see" (as opposed to the Talmud, which states "it was heard") and can help the artist who studies it seriously to attain an expansive consciousness for creating inspired work.
Kabbalah, Art and Healing
In the dialogue relating to healing, art and Judaism, it is helpful to have the perspective that “illness”, particularly the whole range of mental disorders, even normal tension, is the result of a “constricted” consciousness, which is called in the Kabbalah: MiTZRayim - the Hebrew name for Egypt, connected to words with the Hebrew root M-TZ-R meaning straits and constriction. (It is interesting to note that the suffix "ayim" in the word Mitzrayim connates a doubling effect, as if to imply a "constriction within a constriction". That is to say a person who is (perhaps happily) completely unaware of his constricted view of life.) The responsibility of the healer is to help deliver his patient from his mental "Egypt" to achieve a new and expansive vision of his life and mission. The constricted mundane consciousness is often described in the Kabbalah as the Elo-kim mode, a world ruled only by natural & rational laws. Expansive consciousness is the Yod-Kay-Vav-Kay mode, which implies the Past, the Present and the Future, together and simultaneously, and is the essence of the Jewish religious faith. This mode name is so holy that we substitute in a secular context just the word: HaShem: The Name.
The above approach, especially in the areas of the rejuvenation of prayer and holiday observance & verbal oriented meditation, is commonly practiced in many synagogues and havurot. Our innovation is its implementation in the visual arts.
There is a saying: “You are what you eat”. We would change it to: “You are what you hang up on your walls”.
Certainly, the quality and direction of a person’s daily visual stimuli must have an influence on his/her mood and can be a springboard to profound spiritual meditation. We would argue that in the Judaic tradition, usually thought of as essentially iconoclastic, according to the misinterpretation of the percept, not to make a “graven image”, there are many areas which are especially appropriate to visual meditation and a source of inspiration for the artist.

1. The Sacred Letters or the Hebrew letters according to the scribal style that appears in the Torah scroll.

2. Meditations and Imaginings on the Jewish Star (in this example, a different view of the Holocaust), the Tree of Life diagram of the sephirot and visions of the Third Temple and Future Jerusalem .

3. Images of the Dialogue-Antilogue series , suggesting through abstract forms and archetypes the intimate relationship between a man and his wife, the most potent kabbalistic metaphor for spiritual connection.

4. In general, abstract art, or more precisely illusionist or “gestalt” art, can be become a strong stimulant to meditation, since it invites the active participation of the viewer with the endless possibility of seeing “new things”, thus eliciting multi-layered expansive consciousness.

5. The use of the Golden Section (Fibonacci series), Cubes and Supercubes, Spiral Helixes and Fractals, all of which are hinted at in Jewish philosophy and in particular the Kabbalah.

Since “seeing is believing” we invite you to test our “thesis” by viewing samples of our work at our web site.

Art Prints

The Secrets of the 12 Tribes in the Kho-Shen

March 2nd, 2016

The Secrets of the 12 Tribes in the Kho-Shen

LEVI לוי - SHIMON שמעון - REUBEN ראובן
ZEBULUN זבולן - ISSACHAR יששכר - JUDAH יהודה
GAD גד - NAFTALI נפתלי - DAN דן
BENJAMIN בנימין - JOSEPH יוסף - ASHER אשר

The names of Twelve Tribes, which appear in various configurations throughout the Torah, have many important symbolic ramifications according to the Rabbis. This is particularly evident in their incision on the gemstones of the Khoshen חושן or Breastplate of the High Priest, where the order and the spelling of the tribal names are according to their first appearance in the Torah at the birth of each of the brothers. The total number of the Hebrew letters of all these tribes adds up to fifty, which is a seminal number, associated with the counting of the Omer and the 50 gates of Understanding. The major purpose of the incised names was to serve as a communicating instrument between G-d and the Jewish people, the oracular Urim and Toomim. Important questions of great consequence to the nation, such as whether to wage war, would be submitted by the High Priest and answers would be received as specific lit-up letters on the Khoshen.

Since the Torah is eternal and applies to all times and states of being, it is my suggestion that one's meditation on the letters of the Twelve Tribes should have an efficacy, particularly when one confronts difficult crossroads in one's life. And if one does this in a state of prayer in one's own internal Temple - enlightened answers are possible.

The following are some possible correspondences which I have found to the Twelve Tribes and the gemstones (as well as the tribal banners in the desert), based primarily on the classical commentators, Rashi and R. Yakov Kuli (Maam Loh-az), but doesn’t even pretend to be exhaustive.
Another input from mystic Sefer Yetzira is the alignment of the Tribes in the desert formation with the Jewish months of the year and the constellations
and human qualities (Levi and Joseph being exchanged for Menasseh and Ephraim). The viewer is invited to continue further.

REUBEN ראובן was incised on the אודם) אדם pronounced Oh-dem), a red stone which most commentators agree is a ruby, and the basis for the painting’s colors. The name oh-dem is related to the word, Adam, or man, and suggests also the dudaim, the human-like mandrakes, which Reuben gave to his mother Leah. The ruby and the mandrakes have been credited with having the power to aid fertility. This implies in the spiritual dimension the ability to make `chidushim’ – new creative discoveries - and is also connected with the first three letters of Reuben’s name ראו, which means seeing, even otherworldly vision.
Tammuz - Cancer - Sight
(Genesis 30:14) Reuben went…and found mandrakes in the field וילך ראובן...וימצא דודאים בשדה

SHIMON שמעון was incised on the פטדה Pitdah, which some commentators translate as an emerald, hence the scintillating green colors in the painting. Other sources of inspiration include:
1) the desert banner of Shimon, which showed the city of Sechem ensconced between the mountains and which was the central city of the tribe in Israel.
2) the suggestion of an ear shape or sound wave ripples which hints at the meaning of the Hebrew word Shimon, “diminutive” hearing, the inner hearing of the still voice of the soul.
Av - Leo - Hearing
(Genesis 29:33) G-d has heard that I was unloved כי שמע ה' כי שנואה אנכי

LEVI לוי was incised on the ברקת Bareket, which some commentators translate as a scintillating crystal, suggesting lightening. Symbolically, this applies to the power to enlighten and be enlightened with Torah studies, which was a special attribute of the tribe. The desert banner of Levi contained three colors - red, white and black - and included a section of the specially woven garments of the priests and the Levites.
(Menasseh) Chesvan - Scorpio - Smell
(Deut 33:8) Your Urim and Tumim belong to your pious one תמיך ואוריך לאיש חסידך

JUDAH יהודה was incised on the נפך Nofech, which some commentators believe was a bluish- green carbuncle. The gem is said to have an efficacy in achieving victory over one's enemies, internal and external, which is a primary attribute of Kingdom, as well as the Baal Tsuvah, the Repenter, both of which are associated with Judah. The desert banner of Judah contained a picture of a crouching lion and a gestalt of its profile may be discerned in the painting.
Nissan - Aries - Speech
Genesis 49:9) Judah is a young lion גור אריה יהודה

ISSACHAR יששכר was incised on the ספיר Sapir, which commentators believe may be a sapphire of a deep blue tint, the color of the pure sky, since this tribe was known for the excellence of its Torah and astronomical studies. In the midst of this gem, one was able to see a form of a dark cloud, suggesting the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. The desert banner of Issachar contained a drawing of a donkey, which hints at the tribe’s ability to carry the heavy load of Torah.
Iyar - Taurus - Thought
(Genesis 49:14) Issachar is a strong-boned donkey יששכר חמר גרם

ZEBULUN זבולן was incised on the יהלם Yahalom, which commentators believe was not a diamond, as its modern Hebrew translation, but rather a pearl, which is, of course, only found in the depths of the sea and thus appropriate for this sea-faring tribe. These ideas are hinted by the pearly and ocean wave texture of the painting.
Sivan - Gemini - Action
(Genesis 49:13) Zebulun shall settle the coast זבולן לחוף ימים ישכן

DAN דן was incised on the לשם Leshem, which some commentators believe was an orange topaz. It is said that the gem shows “inverted faces” to hint at the fact that from this tribe came many judges, who had to show impartiality in judgment to the rich and the poor. To clearly see this in the painting one can position the painting or oneself upside down. The banner of Dan also showed a snake and a suggestion of snake scales may also be detected.
Tevet - Capricorn - Anger
(Genesis 49:16) Dan shall judge his people דן ידין עמו
(Genesis 49:17) Let Dan be a snake יהי דן נחש

NAFTALI נפתלי was incised on the שבו Shevoh, which may be a turquoise stone. The banner of Naftali showed an antlered deer, according to Jacob’s blessing, suggesting dispatch and avidity in performing the commandments.
Adar - Pisces - Laughter
(Genesis 49:21) Naftali is a deer running free נפתלי אילה שלוחה

GAD גד was incised on the אחלמה Achlama, which some commentators define as a purple tinted amethyst in the form of a calf's eye which was believed to prevent cowardliness in battle, an important prerequisite for the tribe which guarded the frontier. The banner of Gad showed a formation of soldiers and army camp, which may be discerned in the painting.
Elul - Virgo - Action
(Genesis 49:19) Gad is an army camp גד גדוד יגודנו

ASHER אשר was incised on the תרשיש Tarshish, which may have been amber the color of olive oil, appropriate for a tribe which was known for its olive oil production. The banner of Asher actually showed an olive tree, which is the central composition in the painting.
Shevat - Aquarius - Taste
(Deut 33:24) He shall dip his foot in olive oil וטבל בשמן רגלו

JOSEPH יוסף was incised on the שהם Shoham, which was a very black gem, probably an onyx. The banner of Joseph showed the city of Egypt, represented here by a myriad of small faces, emerging from the shadows.
(Ephraim) Tishrei - Libra - Coition
(Deut 33:22) Joseph is a noble son בן פרת יוסף

BENJAMIN בנימין was incised on the ישפה Yashpeh, or jasper, which was multicolored. The banner of Benjamin showed a wolf, preying on its spoil, emanating ferocity. In the painting a frontal view of a wolf is somewhat hidden behind the reeds, but may be discerned, if you know where to look.
Kislev -Sagittarius - Sleep
(Genesis 49:27) Benjamin is a fierce wolf בנימין זאב יטרף

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Welcoming your responses.