Jewish Arts by
Sacred Images of Dov Lederberg and Yael
Messianic Jerusalem 55" x 202"
We have all experienced the times when you want something
so bad that you cannot bear to wait for reality to catch up with
desire. This is what the Rambam alluded to as he formulated
“I believe with a perfect faith in the coming of the
Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate
every day that he will come.” Therefore it is understandable
when an artist attempts to envision that which should, indeed, must
become the future. This impulse to make a sacred art and thereby
to shape the future into today can be called “Visionary Art.”
By their own definition, this is the art of Dov Lederberg
and Yael Avi-Yonah.
Cherub Dialogues #3 Tenderness 40" x
Dov and Yael create their artwork completely independently
of each other, each producing a deeply individual vision of a spiritual
reality. Nonetheless, this happily married couple continually inspires
each other from their upstairs and downstairs studios in their home
in Jerusalem. They share a common love of kabbalah and determination to
share a unique vision of the world with as many people who will take the
time to look, think and feel beyond surface appearances. The deep spirituality
they seek causes them to see the world through a lens of emerging potential
that navigates the razor thin edge between submerged reality and a future
struggling to become manifest.
Priestly Blessing 31" x 39"
Yael Avi-Yonah, daughter of the esteemed Israeli
archaeologist and art historian, Michael Avi-Yonah, has created highly
successful Jewish art for over twenty-five years including paintings, prints
and serigraphs of Jerusalem landscapes and biblical scenes. Since
1988 she has effectively invented and developed an unusual kind
of visual expression called Anaglyphic Art that embodies her complex
and multiple kabbalistic visions. Anaglyphic Art (“ana” = diminishing,
“glyphic” = form) is simultaneously entirely new and amazingly ancient.
Her researches have found that many artists of the
past, including Rembrandt, have unconsciously used these esoteric
techniques. Utilizing the right brain (abba - chachmah - masculine)
/ left brain (imma - bina -feminine) dichotomy she combines in each
painting elements that will stimulate these distinct cognitive areas.
The right brain tends to see
the general picture while the left brain concentrates
on details and the balance of light and darkness. Yael strives
to put both kinds of artistic vision in each of these Anaglyphic
works and asks the viewers to use special red and blue lenses to optically
combine and then selectively divide the two visions. The effect
of seeing one area of a painting leap to life while suppressing another
is startling and in Yael’s complex layering of images a hidden narrative
is frequently revealed. Alternatively viewing the painting
through the red lens and then the blue lens shifts the content of
the image while looking at the painting through both eyes and lenses creates
a “hologram” effect.
World of Angels
Original Work Seen through Red Lens Seen through Blue Lens
Yael is striving for the experience of revelation.
Seeing figures and heads appear and disappear while auras of light
seem to materialize out of nowhere as one optically shifts from red
to blue and back again makes the aesthetic experience challenging and
interactive. I am not convinced, however, that it actually becomes
revelatory. For me that supernal vision she seeks is more closely
approached in the moving paintings she has done depicting the future Jerusalem.
The series of New City or Messianic Jerusalem presents
two innovative visions of the Holy City. One enormous painting
“Messianic Jerusalem” (55" x 202") shown above is suffused with light
and spiritual auras that create a virtual reality in which materiality
seems to disappear before our very eyes as if two thousand years of
yearning finally materialized every Jew’s deepest desire for holiness
and peace. This may be one of her most successful paintings by
creating a very real structure (which is what the Messianic Jerusalem
will do, i.e. restructure reality) using the pure light of spirituality
to reconfigure the material world.
Another set of paintings conceives of the
New Jerusalem as an entity structured entirely of crystals suffused in dramatic
lights and darks, eerily glowing in a kind of heavenly Vegas as
vivid reds, purples and blues compete for attention with flashes
of white light. The crystal city of Jerusalem becomes more
fantastic with each painting.
The climax of these visions is “Future
City #9” as the resurrection of the dead bursts upon the scene in an apparition
of skulls floating against a crimson mist evoking a vision of Ezekiel
of the world to come. This vision is less of a liberation from
death than a warning that the future may not be entirely comforting.
Yael feels the current desperate situation in Israel, especially in Jerusalem
concerning the never-ending violence and conflict is precisely the
impetus for creating these visions of the future today.
Dov Lederberg approaches his future vision
from the veiled perspective of contemporary art. His subjects
are alternatively hidden in vivid psychedelic visions or overt symbolism
embedded in Op Art. A recent series of paintings called “Dialogues”
starts with the visual paradigm of the cherubs that rested atop the Ark
of the Covenant. The Midrash elaborates that they faced one another
but with a change of the mental state of the Jewish people they would change
their position, even turning away from one another in anger and discord.
Building on this premise Lederberg manipulates two kidney shaped abstractions
that face one another and morph from painting to painting in changes of
color, intensity and shape. These wing-like forms represent such diverse
emotions as Sympathy
, and Gluttony.
It is here that the distinction between Yael and
Dov becomes clear as Dov’s conceptual bias
is constantly manifest while she remains linked to a more
traditional view, almost always referring to a concrete reality.
Dov comes to his artwork after
an extensive background in experimental film, including a stint with
Israeli television making documentaries and educational films.
In the 1960’s he learned in various yeshivas and since the 1980’s
has been deeply involved in kabbalah and meditation which has dominated
his painting for the last decade or so. A passionate investigation into
the essence of things has fueled Dov’s work.
Dove in the Crevice of the Rock
The Women's Gallery
His series on the intricate texture
of the Western Wall looks deep into the tiny crevices and fractures in the
surface of the ancient stone finding echoes of symbols and meanings.
The Twelve Tribes 55" x 61"
Similarly he has sought
a way to fuse the names of the twelve tribes that appear on the Khoshen
Hamishpat (the Breastplate of the High Priest) with images that evoke each
tribe. The resulting set of twelve paintings becomes a giant meditation
on the power of the letters and the names that causes the viewer to assemble
and disassemble the myriad relationships possible between the tribes and
Kapporot Erev Yom Kippur
30" x 40"
The Haichal (Temple Sanctuary) - Non
Local Reality 30" x 40"
The artist explains that since the destruction of the Second
Temple the primary aesthetic experience of the Jewish people has been
oral, citing the verbal nature of learning the Talmud and transmitting
that knowledge from generation to generation. Almost two thousand
years ago this represented a loss of the visual experience that is
reasserting itself now as we rapidly approach the Age of the Messiah,
becoming more and more pronounced as many artists delve into kabbalah,
uncovering and hoping to reveal esoteric and mystical realities.
He sees the increased awareness of kabbalah and especially the study
of the Zohar as leading to an expanded consciousness allowing both artists
and viewers to perceive that which was hidden before. It is the
future of heightened consciousness that Dov Lederberg has claimed as
His more recent work has concentrated on Kabbalah Mandalas
that are frequently circular in composition (the classic mandala
form) and are particularly well suited to being used as objects of
meditation. “ Inner Space01
,” "Inner Space02
,” “Wheels of Light
,” “Kabbalah Kisses
” and “Kaporot Erev Yom Kippur” (shown above) all present
a form of optical stimulation, also utilizing Yael’s Anaglyphic methodology,
that harken back to 60’s Op Art harnessed in the quest for spiritual
Abraham's Vision - the Holocaust 40"
– Abraham’s Vision” is a harrowing meditation on Abraham’s
Covenant Between the Parts presenting an aerial view of the white
hot fire that consumed the split carcasses of the sacrificial animals.
This image in its turn begins to appear as the flaming torso of a man
driving home the sacrificial nature of the millions of martyrs consumed
in the Holocaust. For the normally pacific and calm Lederberg
this image is almost unbearably violent and moving. Other recent
“ Pieces Now – Israeli Bus Bombing
” and “Jewish Stars out of Auschwitz
” are similarly concerned with the violence of our
times that cries out for explanation.
for explanation competes with the desire for solution of the complex
problems of the Jewish people. We yearn for a unity of our people,
we yearn for peace, we yearn for justice. Simply put, we yearn for
Moshiach daily. Dov Lederberg and Yael Avi-Yonah present their mystical
visions of a new world yearning to be born.
Richard McBee is a painter
of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel
free to contact him with comments at