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Jonathan Geffner: Ventriloquist, Author, Pianist

Jewish-Art DNA in conjunction with

Kent State University Hillel Grand Opening(2009)

Paintings on display at KSU Hillel until June 15, 2015.

Kent State Hillel
613 E. Summit St.
Kent, Ohio


Leslie Cohen Jeffreys

The intertwining of the artist’s Jewish and artistic life begins with a fundamental decade of Sunday and Hebrew school, in South Jersey. Early visits to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with her artist-mother, Shirley Skloff Shapiro, as birthday celebrations, solidify in Leslie’s consciousness a love of modern art. In Hebrew school, she develops an appreciation for Bible, Jewish history, Hebrew language, prayer, songs, holidays, a connection to Israel, to other Jews, and to the world. Exposure to modern art is astonishing. Especially Picasso’s Cubism, the intense color of Joan Miro and Matisse, the beauty of form of Arp and Brancusi, and the imaginative explorations of Paul Klee all thrill the young girl. She returns home to create abstract designs.

These are the Jewish roots of the artist’s childhood, at Beth Abraham Synagogue, in Bridgeton, New Jersey, which finally closes in 2007. Her artistic roots are embedded in Philadelphia.

Both of these pathways remain dormant for years, as Leslie moves to California, where she completes high school, and pursues higher academia in Ohio. As a young, married woman, with two daughters, she studies the Books of Job and Song of Songs, with Tzvi  Yehuda, at The Cleveland College of Jewish Studies, now Siegal College, and a few courses in modern Hebrew. The path of the artist is largely neglected during this time. Later, synagogue life is strengthened again at Fairmount Temple, while raising her children.

Stained glass supplies, a gift from her grandmother, open a gateway back into art. After seven years part-time at the Cleveland Institute of Art and three years and a summer at Kent State University, Leslie is graduated with her Master of Fine Arts in painting. Hebrew alphabet themes begin to emerge in her paintings. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s, A Mystical Aleph-Bet, inspires the artist in her Hebraic Spectromorph Series and Partnership Series. The strands of DNA are connecting. The artist is challenged by one of her professors at CIA, who admonishes her that if she continues to paint Hebrew letters, she will never be part of the art world.

When Cohen Jeffreys comes to KSU on an Ohio Regents scholarship, she studies painting with Mort Grossman and Bill Quinn. The artist is also intensely inspired by Picasso and modern art studies with Carol Salus, Durer with Diane Scilia, an African art class, and a poetry writing workshop with Maggie Anderson. This boiling caldron moves the artist to create The Partnership Series, based on mystical interpretations of the Hebrew letter, Koof. This letter has an upper, Divine portion, hovering, embracing, and protecting its lower part, which reaches up. The abstracted Koof is placed in a surreal landscape of azure and blue, a peaceful, spiritual setting.

The Moon River Tango Series of Feminine Harbors, represents the generations of women in the artist’s family, past, present, and future.  Her grandmother plays a strong role in her life, giving her love of family, love of Zion restored, and a love of nature. The first painting of this series is dedicated to her, Hidden Within Your Sea Foam, as she first introduces Leslie to the ocean in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In these large paper paintings, the paint flows in rivulets, as the vascularity she remembers in her studies, while working as a respiratory therapy technician earlier. This opens another gate to exploring the pouring and pooling of paint.

Eden Dance 11, created by pooling and evaporating each layer of paint, refers to a figure dancing in the Garden of Eden.  It deals with thoughts beyond mortality.

If all painting happens at the boundaries, overflowing the boundary is risky. Humans need boundaries to comprehend reality. The large canvases here show a return to form after this exploration. Using intense color to touch the heart is seen in many of the paintings here.

Leslie Cohen Jeffreys is a modernist and a colorist. Born the same year as the state of Israel, the artist is inextricably linked to both Judaism and Art. These represent to her the intertwining of her DNA.

Prospectives on Art – October 14, 2014

Sponsored by The Women Of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, this will be a discussion by several artists about their artwork and its connection to Judaism. This is a community-wide event and open to everyone.  All artwork will be for sale.