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Painting the faces of poetry

Poets use words to express their inner thoughts and emotions, but often their physical appearances are hidden. Israeli artist Zvi Lachman, famous for drawing poets’ faces, said his mission is to give new perspective to the written word with his paintings.

‘I am looking to capture their spirit through my art,’ Lachman said to more than 70 people at the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House Rubin-Frankel Gallery Monday night.

This is the first time that Lachman, who is a teacher as well as an artist, presented his work in Boston, gallery coordinator Holland Dieringer said.

‘It’s refreshing to hear from an artist’s perspective on what’s happening with literary figures as opposed to political figures,’ she said. ‘There are not many venues for Israeli Jewish art in Boston, and it is important for students to see all different kinds of art.’

Lachman addressed how some spectators often perceive his drawings as ‘blurry,’ but he said it reflects his intimate perception of his subjects.

‘When you feel you know someone, the features seem to disappear,’ he said.

Lachman read several Hebrew poems by the poets he drew.

‘For many years, these poets have been my spiritual mothers and fathers,’ he said before the talk. ‘Many died before I was born, and painting is a chance to encounter them and show the public how I perceive them.’

Lachman, who has been drawing poets’ faces for 20 years, said he intended to create a historical gallery of the many poets who have greatly influenced his life.

Following his speech, Lachman’s wife, Lilach, who is also a poet, spoke about her husband’s work and read several more Hebrew poems.

‘The features of some of the poets’ faces that Zvi drew for years are imprinted in their language and voices,’ she said. ‘It is interesting to see how the six poets [discussed in the presentation] that Zvi drew not only capture different moments in his life, but these poets also question the boundaries of a traditional poet’s identity.’

She said before the talk that she and her husband share a passion for the same poets.

The Rubin-Frankel Gallery displays works by Jewish artists whose exhibits have been shown all over the world. Lachman’s exhibit will remain open until Jan. 5.

‘Lachman is especially significant because he is a contemporary artist whose work celebrates a different kind of artist that created the work themselves,’ Hillel Student Activities Director Kip Lombardo said said.

Nadav Tamir, the Israeli Consul General for Boston, also attended the event.

‘There is currently too much focus on Israel in terms of politics, and people aren’t aware of other aspects,’ he said. ‘Israel is the hub of arts, culture and technology, but this side is usually not exposed to the public. People connect more through emotion than intellect, and nothing is better than art to make this connection.’

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