Project Ezrah is hosting an art show featuring well known Israeli artist Edward Ben Avram. Meet the artist at the show, which will take place on Sunday, May 19, from 7 - 9 p.m., at the home of Becky and Avi Katz. A portion of the proceeds will go to Project Ezrah.
I had the opportunity to meet Ben Avram and ask him about his life, work and what inspires him.
JM: When did you decide you wanted to be a professional artist?
BA: I knew when I was a little boy. My brother was an artist and he painted with watercolors. My teacher was also an artist. He painted with a pen knife and no brush. It was amazing to watch.
JM: When did you move to Israel?
BA: I moved to Israel from India in 1951. My mother was a Zionist. We lived in Haifa in the beginning. My father was an electrical engineer and he got a job in Jerusalem. That is when I moved with my family to the capital city. My father died a few years later. My mother passed away during my first year in the army. From a young age my brother, sister and I were on our own. It was very difficult.
JM: How did you learn and develop your own style? It is very recognizable.
BA: I started in watercolors, like my brother. I studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. I lived in Tel Aviv and painted seaside pieces. I painted Jaffo, Acko and paintings of boats and the sea. There were many galleries in Tel Aviv on Ben Yehuda and many artists painted. I needed to sell paintings to make a living.
JM: How did you transition to your current style of art?
BA: I met Dov Safrai, from the Safrai Gallery in Jerusalem. He encouraged me to expand the mediums that I used and encouraged me to start using oil paints. He was the one who encouraged me to go to school and learn technique. He saw that I would be able to make a career for myself as an artist. He was like a father to me.
JM: What is your favorite subject to paint?
BA: The Kotel. I fought in the Six Day War in 1967. I moved supplies to the soldiers on the front lines in the Old City. A few days after the war, I went to the Kotel for the first time with my fiance. I felt [happy] for seeing and being present at the Kotel. It was glorious. The country was so happy. I then decided to paint Jerusalem and the Kotel.
Every year I go to the Kotel for the Shalosh Rigalim. I see the Wall, the stone, the sun. In the summer, you feel the heat and it is a beautiful feeling.
JM: That obviously had a huge impact on you as an Israeli and as an artist.
BA: I began painting with oils. Oils have power in the brightness of their colors. I used the colors to paint my city.
I opened the Tanach and was inspired by the stories of Noach, Jonah, Jacob’s Dream. There are so many stories in the Tanach that inspire me to paint.
JM: What is the message are you trying to share in your work?
BA: Tourists, Kol Am Yisroel (all of Israel) began coming to Jerusalem and galleries wanted paintings of the Kotel and Jerusalem. This is what I was inspired to paint. A gallery owner said that when I paint Jerusalem, I make it more beautiful. When I paint, I don’t just see the landscape, I feel the color of the spirit of the place- in the Kotel, the Old City, the mountains.
My dream is for every Jew to have a piece of Jerusalem or of the Kotel on their wall. It is such a strong symbol. It represents the Beit HaMikdash. That is what is left. It is a big symbol. It is something we lost and now we have it. When I go to the Kotel, from morning until night, you see people praying, praying, praying. When people come to Israel, you go to the Kotel first. Everyone comes to Jerusalem to pray. It is a symbol of prayer for everyone. That is why it is something I continue to paint. It is so important.
For address and other information, please contact Leora Cohen at l[email protected] or 201-569-9047.
By Jennie Mohl