Through July 17th at the Musa Gallery, 3 Rehov Tel Hai, corner Rehov Ahuza, Raanana, Israel
It All Begins At Home—Works of Leah Raab By Dr. Tami Kedar, curator
The exhibition by the painter Leah Raab, entitled “It All Begins at Home”, represents spiritual, emotional and biographical content. She is from a religious family, her late father was a rabbi and dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Bar Ilan University. He was a Holocaust survivor, and later made Aliya with the family. Raab’s mother was also a painter. Raab’s parents had a significant impact on her life and she carries her parents home within her in all aspects. (Article continues after the images below)
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Freud coined the term “Unheimliche״which refers to a house that carries within it both negative and positive charges. The house is not only a symbol of security and love, but it also has cultural, psychological and emotional energy. Raab feels the emotional duality within her; on the one hand, deep appreciation and longing for her parents and on the other hand, remembering the rigid upbringing and her father’s strictness that weighed heavily on her. At the same time, her parents allowed her to study art at the Bezalel Academy, with the understanding that art is the center of her life. The “home” for her takes on additional meaning, against the backdrop of involuntary displacement experiences at different periods in her life. The artist defines herself as a “wandering Jew” because she was forced to change her place of residence numerous times, which caused her emotional upheaval and pain.
Leah Raab’s family members also experienced feelings of displacement when expelled from their homes during the Holocaust. Migration is indeed a private traumatic experience but may well be passed down from generation to generation. Most of her paintings displayed in the exhibition feature mirrors reflecting houses on the streets of Raanana and New York City, and there is a sense that they are detached from the ground and the environment, as if she has been uprooted after she has settled. The houses in the works are bound within a circle or outline, the landscape is closed and framed. According to her, having the frame is the element that gives her security, while the change in places of residence has given her a sense of ephemerality, instability and insecurity.
The image of the “mirror” has received many interpretations in psychology and when I asked her what attracted her, she noted that the image is virtual, a kind of illusion, it looks distorted and the effect is of an inverted world. In her opinion, not everything reflected in the mirror and in the world presents a true reality, thus she connects with the words of the little prince, “the important things are hidden from the eye”. The poet Dalia Ravikovitch experienced the loss of her home after the death of her father upon moving to a kibbutz with her mother, in the poem “Advocacy,” where she wrote, “it seems as if the walls of the house are twisting in pain.” The houses in Leah Raab’s mirror paintings are twisted and distorted but still have an anchor and security in them, the painter borders them in a circle and she has the freedom to move in and out.
The “home”, she focused on when painting turtles, was during a time when she needed to paint in a symbolic and figurative style, to hold on to the concrete and to be understood, since in her opinion abstract paintings are not easily interpretable.
The meaning is hidden beneath the surface, where the expression of our unconscious is concealed . In the turtle figure, she sees a metaphor of herself. The turtle carries the home on its back, the protective armor symbolizes her need for security and stability but when upside down, its soft bottom is vulnerable.The turtle is considered the symbol of mother earth, and the beginning of creation.
The theme of the home comes up again and again in her works in different versions. As mentioned, the current exhibition presents a series of house paintings that are reflected by the street scenes which captured the painter’s gaze while wandering with her camera in her various places of residence in both the US and Israel. The difference between the paintings is expressed through different atmospheres and colors. As an adult, Raab felt alienated in New York City and longed to return to Israel. This duality is reflected in her self-portrait against the backdrop of homes in Israel on one side and in New York on the other.