I viewed the photo exhibition, ‘Women of the Bible’, by Dikla Laor at the Jerusalem Theater (2018), and I was deeply moved. Laor is a poet of the camera who interprets like no other the mythic-archetype feminine soul of the Bible in a poetic and sensitive manner. Some are prominent, such as Rivkah, Miriam, Pilegesh (concubine) of the Levite, Avigail, Queen of Sheba, Isabel, Rachel and Leah, Shiphrah and Puah, Ruth and Naomi, daughters of Lot, daughter of Pharaoh, daughter of Yiftach and daughter of Batsheba, and others less prominent, such as Serach daughter of Asher, Job’s wife and daughters and even Oholah and Oholibah from Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Laor presents the women at intersecting points in their life, when tempted, birth, motherhood, evil, dance, joy, and mourning. Her photographs are not clichés, apples of the tree of knowledge in her photographs are not red, and do not submit to conventions of art history, which, for example, presents Adam in the apple scene in the Garden of Eden. (I will note in parentheses that there is no apple in the biblical story …) Overall, there are no adult males in her photographs. Only mothers with their young sons, protecting and loving – Isaac the boy next to Sara, Hagar and her son, Zipporah who circumcised the foreskin of her son or the widow from France and her dying son. Her world is net feminine, free of patriarchal bonds. No more Biblical Bedouin women in a tent. Their womanhood is not tied to the tent and weddings and to the hard work of the house. These are women outside- connected to the land, plants and animals (The giant snake, the donkey, the horse and the dog). With regard to the animals, one cannot help admire the effort to bring to the scene of Eve and the tree of knowledge a live snake weighing no less than seventy kilograms!
Laor’s photographs exhibit her personal commentary, depth and daring Biblical texts. She directs the scenery with models she dresses in feminine clothes, long, rich, flapping and airy, giving them nobility, majesty, tenderness and power. The bold colors of the women’s clothes against the ambiguous background of the Golan Heights create a fusion between the Medieval European paintings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and the local Israeli landscape of our time period. She has no female nudity. Her Eve is dressed in delicate angelic white (not nude like you see in classic art). The photographs highlight the external beauty of women, and also gives the women of the Bible a modern feminine freshness. The compositions are precise, and the photography is of the highest professional technical level.
There is no doubt, a tremendous and rare artistic achievement.
Dr. Lea Mazor, The Hebrew University.