By Susan Kern-Fleischer
In many ways, acclaimed artist Ora Tamir is a storyteller. Though there are no spoken or written words, her surrealistic paintings capture the fantastical, adventurous, evocative, and sometimes serious stories and images that exist in her mind’s eye as she begins to paint.
Ora was born on a kibbutz: a settlement surrounded by the stark beauty of the Israeli desert. When she was young, she would spend hours gazing at masterpieces in Tel Aviv’s Museum of Art.
“It became my art class – my favorite playground. I admired art masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Vincent van Gogh. I studied their work. They were my teachers. On my bat mitzvah, I received a beautiful leather box, an oil paint set. It was a treasure for me, and I just stared at it in wonder,” she says.
Years later, after completing a two-year service in the Israel Defense Forces, she traveled to New York. It was there that she discovered the work of Salvador Dali for the first time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“I was awestruck. That night I had a vivid dream – in it, a child was tied to a balloon, grasping her parents’ hands. I immediately sketched it and knew I had crossed into the world of Surrealism for good,” she says.
Finding Peace in Painting
Ora considers herself blessed to have found her life’s passion in painting. She prefers to paint in solitude, with no sounds or distractions.
“I get into a meditative state the moment I hold a pencil or a brush. Nothing exists except me and the painting. I don’t feel time passing…it is a gift I was born with,” she says. “My art is my wonderful obsession; I get lost in it. So do the people who tell me that my art brings them to a good place.”
She relies on her intuition to guide her, and she cherishes the ability to be spontaneous.
“I start a painting without knowing where it is taking me. It evolves layer by layer. Sometimes a drawing that scribbled absentmindedly calls me to develop it into a painting. Again…It evolves,” she says. “I enjoy watching people as they look at my paintings. As they connect with them, they ask, “What does it mean?” and I respond, “What does it mean to you?”. They find their personal stories in my art. It speaks to them. I have learned to listen, and it is rewarding.”
Healing her soul
Ora and her late husband, Eli Tamir, immigrated to California in 1980, where they raised three teenagers. As her business manager, Eli helped her tremendously with many aspects of her career. Eli’s passing in December 2016 was such a devastating loss to her, she had trouble painting and sunk into a depression. Picking up the paintbrush got her out of a black hole, and she healed.
Ora’s life was once again turned upside down on the morning of October 7, 2023. Alarms on her phone app alerted her to seek shelter in her safe room when the terrorist group Hamas launched its barbaric attacks against Israel.
“My mother was a Holocaust survivor, and I was brought up listening to Holocaust stories. My generation is the “Never again” generation. The brutal attack by Hamas brought it all back,” Ora says. “It is gut wrenching. We in Israel are like one big, united family. The horrific monstrosity, the brutality affects each one of us.”
For the first week, she stayed glued to the television. She finally forced herself to get back into the studio.
Several months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Ora painted her interpretation of the World Trade Center towers on that historic day. Her painting, “Rage,” remains in her private library. She shared that she is still digesting the monstrosities that have transpired since October 7 and it may take time before she translates her emotions to a canvas.
“I don’t know when my soul will be able to put what I feel on canvas. I am not an angry person. I hate violence. We, the people in Israel, will fight to get our hostages back and bring an end to the forces of evil named Hamas. We, the people of Israel, Jews, Christians, and Arabs, seek peace.”
Full of Gratitude
In troubled times like this, Ora is grateful for her faith and loving family and friends.
“I cherish my Jewish heritage, our history and who we are as a people. I am proud to be Jewish,” she says. “I always say my morning prayers when I wake up, thanking G-d for putting my soul back in my body. I thank G-d for the gifts that were bestowed on me. I pray when I go to sleep and add some words that are not written in the prayer book. My mother taught me all these things as a little girl. I am so grateful for my health, for the life that I have and for living in Israel, the land that I love.”
During Arizona Fine Art EXPO, Ora will exhibit a new collection of original surreal oil paintings and limited editions of hand embellished giclee prints as well as a collection of Chromaluxe prints on metal. To learn more, visit www.arizonafineartexpo.com.
An Israeli resident who resides near Tel Aviv, Ora will make north Scottsdale home for 10 weeks as she paints from her art studio at the Arizona Fine Art EXPO. The popular event begins Friday, January 12 and runs through Sunday, March 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily under the “festive white tents” at 26540 N. Scottsdale Rd., on the southwest corner of Scottsdale and Jomax Roads, next to MacDonald’s Ranch.
Celebrating its 20th season, the fine art show features 75 diverse artists in 124 patron-friendly working studios within a 44,000 square-foot space. Artists work in their studios daily, and guests have a chance to see them in action and learn about their inspiration and techniques.