Orna Bentor

Alcohol Ink Painting 23 (thumbnail) Whose Land is This? (thumbnail) Flow III (thumbnail) Chatzavim II (thumbnail)

Orna Bentor art on display at Jones House

Watauga Democrat, October 22, 1997

Review of the current exhibition of works by Orna Bentor on view at the Jones House, Boone, through the end of October.

A lot of lip service is being given to diversity these days; the Jones House, an art center in downtown Boone supported by the Watauga County Arts Council, is currently showing the work of an artist who beguiles us into an awareness of diversity – how life is in other places, and how an experience of that can enrich our own lives.

Orna Bentor, an Israeli, recently moved to Boone with her family. Her paintings welcome you into the gallery with their glowing Mediterranean colors. The deep blues, clear yellows and vibrant oranges alternately stain the canvas and lie over textures that makes the pigments seem even more concentrated. It is a glory of paint.

At the same time, you are looking for subject matter and meaning. The graceful staining colors don’t quite prepare you for the images of a war-torn land that arise from the surfaces of the paintings or that are half-buried in those surfaces. Rarely are the images outright brutal (with the exception of “They Should Beat Their Swords Into Plowshares…”, which confronts thorns sprinkled across the colors that are the sky and land of Israel. Nonetheless, it is there, and in the midst of all the color you realize that you don’t know what it is like to have your life rimmed in barbed wire. We use it here to keep the cows from wandering.

Thus Bentor makes her cry heard, that the promise of a land of milk and honey seems forever held at bay by war. Her work, as is evident in the titles and artist's statements, is embedded in Israel and in Judaism. But even if you don't understand all of her references, you come away with a new awareness of our relative safety and innocence overlaid by the acknowledgment that no nation is even close to fulfilling the promise of a land of milk and honey. What Bentor’s paintings address is the cherishing of the dream despite the uncertain outlook; for if we lose that dream, we lose our humanity.

Gretchen Kibbe is an artist and parttime faculty at Appalachian State University.