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Jewish Journal

An Unorthodox Artist

by Rachel Brand

February 27, 2003 | 7:00 pm

When most people think of a spiritual awakening, they don't necessarily think of such a thing taking place at the GAP.  But then again, artist Orit Arfa isn't really into conventionality.

While walking down the streets of Manhattan seven years ago, dressed in her ankle-length skirt and modest Orthodox clothing, Arfa caught a reflection of herself in a revolving door.

"I felt I looked really shleppy, and it didn't really reflect who I was inside and what I was feeling," she said.

Arfa immediately marched straight to the GAP and into a new pair of jeans. "I was jumping up and down! There was this freedom. This spiritual freedom. It seemed like the whole world opened up for me." 

For Arfa, the experience was not only religiously liberating, it was creatively liberating.

"I knew that part of my challenge was to break the stereotypes of the ideal Jewish woman, both for myself, and I wanted to paint the foremothers as sexual, sensual, beautiful, vibrant women," Arfa said.

Since then, Arfa has moved to Israel, where she expresses her individual -- and often controversial -- views on religion, politics, and life through her art. Her biblical portraits challenge traditional female roles and mainstream public opinion, and her figurative style challenges typical abstract Israeli art.

"I'm not a well-known artist, but I feel very proud that my art is going against the trend of the art community in Israel. The art community here is so completely left. It's very anti-reason art," she said.

This month, Arfa's works will be on display at the Gaffen Wine Center in Jerusalem from March 16-April 5. The show, which takes place during the Purim season, will include a variety of the artist's biblical portraits including her painting of Queen Esther as the "Queen of Nightlife" -- a work that was inspired by Arfa's fondness for the Purim holiday and her experiences in the Jerusalem nightlife scene. "I saw many similarities between parties described in the biblical story and nightclub raves. Both glorify beautiful women, drinking and hedonism," Arfa said on her Web site. To see some of Orit Arfa's works, visit www.oritarfa.com .

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