web analytics
April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

The Color of Prophecy


The Bride of Hoseashtein: Betrothal and Exile (2007) (24” x 36”), oil on canvas by Nahum HaLevi
Courtesy the artist

The Bride of Hoseashtein: Betrothal and Exile (2007) (24” x 36”), oil on canvas by Nahum HaLevi Courtesy the artist

The Color of Prophecy
Visualizing the Bible in a New Light by Nahum HaLevi
Gefen Publishing House; Jerusalem & New York 2012

The rather large grasshoppers all have different human faces. The trees have human bodies with branches sprouting out of their heads. The animals in the Peaceable Kingdom garden seated at Isaiah’s feet are painted purple, pink, blue and red. Welcome to the visionary world of Nahum HaLevi’s Latter Prophets.

The Color of Prophecy presents 15 oil paintings of all the Latter Prophets, each accompanied by a “unified artistic-literary, interpretive commentary.” This book is an ecstatic confrontation with the prophets of Israel through the dual mediums of art and text. The paintings were created over a three-year period ending in 2010 with the biblical analysis only written afterward. It is deeply significant that these images are not illustrations of HaLevi’s text but rather the images themselves reflect a primary commentary on the Biblical text. The author’s words often serve to explicate the dizzying images as well as explain the sacred text.

Visionary art emerges from within the artist’s imagination and psyche. As such it presents a deeply personal and private world, one that is foreign, strange and even frightening to the viewer. Here the subjects are particularly daunting, drawing on the just but brutal punishment of the Jewish people by God, the eventual destruction of our enemies and the final salvation of the Jewish people in the distant future. As is often the case when one encounters visionary art, one wonders about the nature of the artist; he must surly be a wild-eyed bohemian living in isolation, much like the ascetic prophets he describes. So it is with considerable surprise that Nahum HaLevi is the pseudonym of Dr. Nathan C. Moskowitz, neurosurgeon, neuroscientist, inventor, author and, among many other credits, currently Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. Wow.

Isaiah’s Symphony in Salv-A-tion Major (2009) 64” x 48”, oil on canvas by Nahum HaLevi
Courtesy the artist

The image of Isaiah’s Symphony in Salv-A-tion Major (2009) 64” x 48” is initially striking because of the Seraphim. One of the two above him is holding a burning coal from the altar to the prophet’s lip to sear his iniquity away. Isaiah holds his hands up in grateful acceptance of Divine purification. He is blissed out in his red robe, proudly wearing his golden sundial to time his prophecies. But it is not only the angels that transport our prophet, no, he is in his glory as a conductor of a orchestra of God’s grateful creatures; the aforementioned grasshoppers (the diversity of their faces representing the nations of the world), many animals and trees included with more than a dozen multicolored clusters of tiny smiling and singing souls.

Where to go next in this feverish world? Perhaps Ezekiel’s Brain: Flotations and Rotations in the River of Time. The 12 resurrected skeletons are stunning, their life-force flowing into their bodies via a heavenly set of arteries. Yet the violent colors in the heavenly sphere are overwhelmingly cacophonous and chaotic, almost obscuring the vision rather than revealing it. In contrast The Bride of Hoseashtein: Betrothal and Exile (2007) (24 x 36) is clear and intelligible. God’s prophecy to Hosea invaded the inner sanctum of his personal life, ordering him to take a harlot as a wife and bear three children whose very names reflect the appalling distance between God and Israel. First born, Jezreel, signifies the imminent defeat of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel. Next born was the daughter Lo-Ruhamah, literally expressing God’s anger at the “not-pitied” nation. Finally the son Lo Ami, expressing God’s denial of His own people, Israel. We see them as three embryonic figures tethered to the union of Hosea and his wife. The sadness of this prophetic tale is overwhelming with tears falling down from the sky reflecting the very anguish that God Himself feels at the disloyal and wanton behavior of His chosen people.

The metaphor of the harlot wife Gomer representing Israel running after foreign gods and abandoning the Torah is almost too much to endure; Hosea himself bares his teeth in a grimace of disgust. And yet there is hope in the fact that the prophet is bound to his diminutive wife by the straps of his tefillin, wrapping her body and legs to his arm. The text on the arm strap proclaims the future reconciliation, “I will betroth you to Me forever; and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, with justice, with kindness and with mercy; and I will betroth you to Me with fidelity and you will know Hashem (Hosea 2: 21-22).” Significantly the box of the arm tefillin is attached over his wife’s chest signifying the sincere change of heart on the part of the people of Israel.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Color of Prophecy”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Children are asleep at last as adults in the Chabad House continue to deal with the crisis in Nepal.
Chabad Co-Emissary in Nepal Hopes for ‘Only Good News’ in Video
Latest Sections Stories
Food-Talk---Eller-logo

“People who never buy cookbooks are getting this one,” said Victoria. “They read it cover to cover and find it so interesting.”

South-Florida-logo

We have recently witnessed how other minorities deal with even perceived danger aimed at their brothers and sisters. They respond in great numbers.

South-Florida-logo

The Hebrew Academy students took part in all categories and used successful and innovative techniques to achieve their goals.

“The objective behind establishing small communities as places for relocation was a remedy for the excessive cost of housing and education in the large New York metropolitan market,” Mr. Savitsky explained.

Jewish Democrats did not entirely trust the son of Joseph Kennedy, a man broadly considered to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.

We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t […]

From the moment Israel was declared a Jewish state, it has been the subject of controversy and struggle.

Now that Pesach is over, we return you to your regularly-scheduled pressing questions:   Dear Mordechai, Can I use a nose hair trimmer during Sefirah? Harry Lipman   Dear Harry, Yes, as long as your nose hairs are so bad that they’re affecting your job. Like if you have a desk job, and they interfere […]

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/the-color-of-prophecy/2012/12/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: