Shekhina Photographs Exploring the Divine Presence in the Feminine Form

On View

September 9, 2002 – January 10, 2003

Artist’s Reception and Lecture

(co-sponsored by Reform Judaism Magazine), Tuesday, November 12 — Reception, 6-8 pm; Lecture, 7 pm

Leonard Nimoy: Shekhina, an exhibition of photographs by the renowned artist and actor, will be on view at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum from September 9, 2002 to January 10, 2003. Nimoy’s luminous photographs from his recent book, Shekhina, express his search for the essence of the Shekhina, which he interprets as the manifestation of the divine presence in humankind and, particularly, the feminine aspect of God. Through black and white, light and shadow, figuration and abstraction, Nimoy captures poetic images of the female form. His evocations of spirit and flesh, prayer, gathering, and embrace provide a visual portal through which one may encounter this spiritual presence.

Leonard Nimoy was born in 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts. His 1951 film debut launched his acting career, but it was his role as Mr. Spock in the science fiction series Star Trek that earned him his iconic status and three Emmy nominations. Nimoy has pursued photography since his teens: In the 1970s he studied with Robert Heineken at UCLA. Nimoy uses the photographer’s vocabulary to create a balance of textures as a metaphor for his spiritual interpretations. The rigors of intense, finely grained images are played off against illusionist forms blurred from direct scrutiny by gauzy scrims and veils.

Nimoy divides his work into sections: The Blessing, The Spirit in the Flesh, Prayer Against the Darkness, The Gathering, and Embracing the Light. Figures emerge from darkness into ambient light, the tallit (prayer shawl) is lifted to reveal far-seeing eyes, light pours through the hand of a prayerful woman. These intangible moments of emergence represent the creation of the female spirit.

He has introduced each of these photographic chapters with poetic interludes which further deepen our understanding of the Shekhina concept. In the earliest Kabbalistic writings, marked by mysticism and the belief in creation through emanation, the Shekhina is described as the feminine principle in the world of the divine Sefirot, the powers emanating from God, through which the world is created and its order sustained.

The restoration of the true unity of God, the masculine principle and the Shekhina, can be achieved through the adherence to Torah, the commandments, and prayer.

Laura Kruger, Curator of the HUC-JIR Museum noted, “In his powerful photographic exploration of the Shekhina, the revelation of holiness in a profane world, Leonard Nimoy has created a luminous body of work. Each of the feminine figures in his work emanates a mysterious glow, a mantle of light, which in itself becomes a visualization of the glory of God. The imagery of light is the connective sub-text of his work, the blacks are deep and intense, the ephemeral light is buoyant and elusive. Nimoy approaches women with a sculptor’s eye. Frequently sited against awesome cloud formations or emerging from supernatural groves of tree branches, the women are assertive yet gently vulnerable.”

For curated tours for reporters/editors, group tours, and additional information, please call (212) 824-2218.