Copyright 2024, Michael Chighel

a b o u t

·M·i·c·h·a·e·l· ·C·h·i·g·h·e·l· is a Jewish philosopher and artist who thinks and paints things Jewish. Above all, things found in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. But also in “Torah” taken in the broadest sense of the term.

A disciple of Yoram Ranaan, Michael practices the post-expressionist Jewish technique he likes to call “Mazálism.” Consciously modeled on the receptivity proper to Jew’s relationship to HaSHEM, the Mazálist painter patiently receives his subject matter from the flow of the paint.

·M·A·Z·Á·L·I·S·M· gets its name from the Hebrew word mazál, which refers to the “drip” or “flow” of heavenly effluence and influence. (מ·ז·ל stems from the root נ·ז·ל.) Hence the well-known Hebrew expression, Mazál Tov! which is used to bless someone with a “Good Flow!” from Above.) In an art-critical essay on his master’s work, Ranaan’s Incandescent Kingdom” (2016), Michael has attempted to spell out some of the basic principles of the Mazálist School. (Link to the art of Yoram Ranaan)

·M·A·N·U·S·C·R·I·P·T·E·D· ·I·L·L·U·M·I·N·A·T·I·O·N·, at the same time, is what uniquely distinguishes Michael’s artwork in its philosophical aspect. After working in paint and mixed media, in passive receptivity, the paintings are submitted to an active interpretation by the artist. This is the proprietary midrashic element of the prints. The specific Torah meaning of the work is brought out explicitly in Hebrew words. Typically a phrase or a single word from the Torah is applied by hand in gold leaf to the final prints. In some cases, the coloring of the original paintings is altered in light of the interpretation.

The midrashic sources are set down in hand-written English in the borders of the print. Where medieval Jewish artists and scribes beautified scriptural texts in what came to be called ‘illuminated manuscripts,’ Michael textualizes artwork as ‘manuscripted illuminations.’ A print thus becomes a gesture of Talmud Torah, of Learning Torah.

The artwork nonetheless retains its simple priority. Because the artist remains aware that his own manuscriptions of his paintings represent his own interpretations, and that other interpretations are no less valid and certainly more meaningful for the beholder, the prints are also available in a standard format, free of manuscription.

The vital thing for the artist is that the prints serve as Jewish beautifications, expressions of that beauty unique to the Torah.

Michael works at home side by side with his wife Yael.

·Y·a·e·l· ·C·h·i·g·h·e·l·, née Benbihy, is a Jewish folk-artist. Born in Casablanca, she draws inspiration from her Moroccan heritage in her unique Jewish folk art.

·J·E·W·I·S·H· ·B·E·A·D·W·O·R·K· is the specific medium in which Yael brings her designs into three-dimensional format.

Folk art, for Yael, is the consummately Jewish form of artistic expression because it is art that beautifies the Jewish home.

The Torah teaches that folk art is the holiest form of art. In the Book of Exodus, the artisan Bezalel and his apprentice Oholiav are appointed and inspired by HaSHEM to beautify His earthly dwelling place, the Mishkan.

“He endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft and has inspired him to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood, to work in every kind of designer’s craft … in blue, purple, crimson, and fine linen, and of the weaver—workers in all crafts and makers of designs.” (Exodus 35:31-35)

The Mishkan being the divine model for the Jewish home, Yael takes her cue from the original Jewish artists, Bezalel and Oholiav, in crafting patterned designs of traditional Jewish motifs.

The handmade pieces bears its own design. No two works are alike. Acquiring beads and various bits of jewelry from across the world, but primarily from distributors in Jerusalem, Yael crafts each folk-art piece in organic fashion around a specific color scheme and Jewish theme.

Yael works at home side by side with her husband Michael.