Parshat Ki Tetzei by Ruth Ben Dov

Fine art Archival Print on 256 gsm Paper, museum quality.
Limited Edition of 250 (נר) each. Size - 70X50 cm
Price includes international shipping

The Torah portion, parshat Ki Tetze, discusses laws of war, and spoke to me immediately, as I am currently the mother of three soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces. With pride at their responsibility and leadership, I pray for the wholeness and health of their bodies and souls. I am the mother bird, who needs to be sent off to fly away from the nest before the eggs are taken. Perhaps I am also the foreign female prisoner of war who shaves her head and weeps, as at times I feel imprisoned by the reality of unending conflict, its demand for patriotism and sacrifice, and by my own failure to search for a peaceful alternative.

My children swore to defend our country, even at the cost of their lives, at a ceremony, which included holding a Tanakh(the Hebrew Bible) in one hand and a gun on the other, the two joined in an act of salute. The female figure enacting that moment brings to mind the parsha's prohibition against the wearing of male attire by a woman (and vice versa), raising questions about the meaning and the price of gender equality. Seeing the Torah joined with a gun reminds us that its words have the power to both give life and death andto promote love and violence. "Turn it and turn it for everything is in it" (Ethics of the Fathers 5:26). We bear the responsibility to interpret in a way that reveals its goodness, without tempering its force and passion. The intricate organic pattern of the parchment guided me in forming many of the images, and led to the decision to leave much of this raw foundation bare, allowing its richness to play a central role in the work.

Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist 
Being a Jewish woman artist is first of all a basic fact of my life, with those three aspects of my identity joining other ones, such as humanity, geography, personal history, and more. At times, I feel the call to consciously explore the relationship between Judaism and art in my work. One of my first attempts was a self-portrait with my hand covering my eyes, as is customary when reciting the Shema prayer,which begins with the words “Hear O Israel.”

Thus, the work brought to the fore the tension between hearing and seeing, between word and image, and between the spiritual and the visual. The fact that the painting portrayed a woman praying felt so natural to me, I didn't consider its significance while working on it. This early effort characterized subsequent work: seeking out points of conflict or complexity, alongside the consistent inclusion of a female presence, often on a less-than-conscious level.

Over the years, I have continued to ponder the mystery of Judaism and art. Some works juxtapose ancient texts relating to idolatry and prohibit representation with painted imagery. Other paintings rework and reinterpret Jewish ceremonial imagery – in one series this provided a platform for a dialogue between Judaism and Islam. A final example, the series "The Painter and the Hassid," presented an imaginary encounter between two historical figures who perished in the Holocaust but whose work survived, hidden.

At other points in my creative process, I have put aside these issues to work on observational painting. More recently, I have concentrated on my own relationship with the history of art as a member of a universal community of painters, ostensibly without the weight of Jewish and female identity on my shoulders. I now feel comfortable playing with the various facets of my identity, with my fears and dreams, and with my Judaism and femininity freely entering and exiting the imagery and feeling of the work.

Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov fuses observational and conceptual painting. She has a B.F.A from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, and is pursuing graduate studies in art history at the University of Haifa. Her work has been exhibited in galleries, museums, and private collections in Israel, the U.S., and Europe.

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Category: Print

Type: Women of the Book

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