Anatoly Kaplan: The Enchanted Artist

Menahem Halberstadt

August 01, 2023

Where is the Goat Now, Menahem Halberstadt, Lithograph, 20*15 cm, 2023

The Hill, Menahem Halberstadt, Lithograph, 20*15 cm, 2023

Kaplan refers in his work to his hometown, represented by the Shtetl from Sholem Aleichem’s stories. Those images became iconic in their depiction of an imaginary living space to which the Israeliness stands in contrast, operating off of a mixture of longing and rebellion.
Kaplan was working in times of instability, when the foundations of Zionism were unsteady, and I found myself experiencing current events as if I am remembering something that was lost. Every practical everyday element in the drawing of the Shtetl is transformed into a symbol: poverty and misfortune come to represent spirituality, farmyard animals, goats and chickens turn into angelic or mythical beings and ordinary people become the subjects of Jewish history.

Is it possible to experience reality in the present, in its symbolic dreamlike aspect? Can a makeshift neighborhood of mobile homes, dry thorns and crooked lampposts rise above the political and be transformed into symbols of the time and spirit? And is it a sort of separation?
My two works, “The Hill” and “Where is the Goat Now” refer to the place I live in – a hill on the edge of the Judaean Desert. In the first, a broad landscape with the sky in the background suggests future changes. The second shows my imaginary meeting with Kaplan, an homage to Kaplan’s “Tevye Talks to Sholem Aleichem” which breaks the bounds of time by allowing the protagonist to talk to the author. Here, Kaplan, who became a historical figure, is meeting me, a contemporary artist. The poverty, the houses, the goats – here and now, in the Land of Israel.

Menahem Halberstadt (b. 1981)
Painter and illustrator. Works in various mediums, from traditional oil and charcoal to digital media. Menahem’s artwork has appeared in newspapers, magazines and adult and children’s books. Winner of the Ministry of Culture and Sports Prize for Illustrators in 2021.

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