Bible and Greek Mythology

Original Article Published On The Jewish Ledger

NEW HAVEN — When David Gelernter writes, “A painting is a form of trapped energy, like a compressed spring or a rock at the top of a hill,” he sounds more like a professor than an artist.

In fact, Gelernter is both.

A professor of computer science at Yale University, best known for his “Linda System,” the basis for many computer communication systems worldwide, and chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, Gelernter also has artistic talent.

His exhibit, “Recent Works: Greek and Hebrew Paintings” is now on display in the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale through April 15.

With the exception of one lithograph, all of Gelernter’s pieces are mixed media works, which include pastels, acrylics, metal (gold, copper and aluminum) leaf, liquid iron and watercolors.

The 25 pieces in the exhibit, all constructed in the past four years, are inspired by the Bible and Greek mythology, nature, Jewish tradition and the Hebrew alphabet.

Most of the Greek pieces- six paintings and one lithograph – are loosely based on Attic red-figure vases. There are scenes from the Iliad, including Odysseus, Agamemnon and Briseus, and a painting which uses a meaningless Byzantine alphabet. The three males with Hebrew inscriptions are three views of biblical David in battle with Goliath.

Gelernter’s exhibition begins in the stairwell of the Slifka Center with light shining through translucent squares of glass. The first portrait, entitled, “Ha’azinu” (the name of the Torah portion in Deuteronomy) features the word “Ha’azinu,” written in Hebrew letters, against a painted orange background, with a blue butterfly at the center. As viewers ascend the stairs and enter the gallery, they experience portraits which seem to alternate between Hebrew works and Greek works. After “Ha’azinu,” visitors view “Sailing to Byzantium,” followed by “Achein” (“Surely the Lord is in this place,” Genesis 28:16), Study (Greek Warrior), and Leikh L’kha (“Get yourself moving!” Genesis 12:1).

Gelernter notes, “Jewish art is intimately connected to sacred texts. Many of my ‘Hebrew’ pieces are based on the mezuzah, which holds a small parchment sheet inscribed with verses from Deuteronomy; others are based on different Biblical texts–several on the extraordinary, nearly untranslatable passage in which the Israelites are told “you have been shown [in order] to know that the Lord is God”-in other words: you know because you have been shown, not merely told.’ Judaism has always preferred first-hand showing to second-hand telling.”

“Recent Works: Greek and Hebrew Paintings” by David Gelernter is on display in the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall Street, New Haven, through April 15.

Gallery Hours: Mon-Thurs: 10 am-7 pm; Fri-Sun: 10 am- 3 pm; 203-432-1134; www.yale.edu/slifka).

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