July 18, 2024
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Linda Lieff Altabef: Producing Israel Art

“The Lifted Veil”

When Linda Lieff Altabef was growing up in rural Connecticut she would spend her afternoons creating. Art was always her vehicle for self-expression. As a child she dreamed that she would grow up to be an artist. Today Altabef lives with her husband, Douglas in the Upper Galilee village of Rosh Pina where she has traded the rustic forests in the backdrop of her childhood home for the majestic landscape of mountains and the Hula Valley that surround her art studio.

Altabef studied design and art education at FIT, The Hartford Art School and The Pratt Institute. Her rich career started with her designing textiles for companies such as Anne Klein, under the direction of Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein. Her artwork has appeared in numerous galleries, museums and private collections in Israel, the United States and Europe. After a successful career in New York, in 2009 Altabef and her family made aliyah from Westchester. She felt drawn to Israel and Rosh Pina was a perfect fit for her, with its art galleries, colorful houses and picturesque scenery that has since inspired much of her artwork.

Her art also draws heavily upon Jewish themes including elements from the Bible and ancient Jewish texts, such as plants and architectural structures. Her artwork is very tactile, drawing on her background in textiles, which is evident across her diverse mediums that include paintings and drawings, prints, installations, sculptures and stained glass.

Altabef has an exhibition currently on display at the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art in Jerusalem, as part of the Jerusalem Biennale that showcases contemporary art in Israel and around the world. The idea for the exhibition, known as “Threading,” was conceived by Altabef and curated by Emily D. Bilski. The exhibition focuses on Jewish textiles that were all designed by women. Her own contribution to the project is The Lifted Veil, a parokhet (Torah ark curtain), designed using pieces of her own wedding veil and wedding dress, as well as 12 hand-printed woodcuts of plants corresponding to the twelve stones of the priestly breastplate. At the top of the parokhet hang the words in Hebrew, “know before whom you stand,” a phrase commonly found in synagogues on Torah arks.

Her artwork is not just a fixture on the wall, but is meant to arouse an inner emotion, or even a different perspective on a Jewish theme or text. “I hope it makes people see things in a way they might not have seen them before,” Altabef said.

Altabef with the hebrew letter Yud, a Linocut print.

When Altabef designs her artwork, she is doing so not just to create a physical product but in order to engage in dialogue with another person, knowing that each person will interpret her design in their own way. “When you are creating artwork, you don’t know who that is going to affect,” she explained. “And if it makes them touch a place within themselves that hadn’t been touched before, that means it’s communicating and it’s not just wallpaper.”

When she gives over a piece of her artwork, she treats the process as an adoption, as though she is releasing a child or a part of herself. But when somebody values the creation of her hands and wants to give it a home, she knows that her artwork has deeply moved somebody. As an artist, that is one of her greatest aspirations.

Altabef also teaches children, helping them to express themselves through artwork, as she did as a child. She has come a long way as an artist since she sat in kindergarten with a blank piece of paper and paintbrush in hand, and feels grateful for the opportunity to be able to share her artwork from Israel both locally and overseas. “I just want to have the health and the koach to be able to continue creating and producing,” she said.

To see Albatef’s artwork visit https://www.lindalieffaltabef.com/


Alisa Bodner is a Fair Lawn native who immigrated to Israel over a decade ago. She is a nonprofit management professional who enjoys writing in her free time.

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