Jewish Press

Jewish Arts by  Richard McBee

Sacred Images of Dov Lederberg and Yael Avi-Yonah


Messianic Jerusalem
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 30"

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

angel angel b&w
 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.

(More on Anaglypic Art)

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. 

Future City #2  30" x 40"
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. 
Future City #9  30" x 40"
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 , Transcendence , Envy , Affection , and Gluttony.

(More examples & information on the Dialogues)

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 Woman's Gallery
        My 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.

12 Tribes
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 their attributes. 

Non-local Reality
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 subject.

Kaporot Erev Yom Kippur
Kapporot Erev Yom Kippur   30" x 40"

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 elevation. 

Akada Holocaust
Abraham's Vision - the Holocaust 40" x 50"
“Holocaust Causality – 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.  
The desire 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 .

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