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What Dina Soker sees when she sits?

She ‘channels’ visions she receives while meditating and turns them into paintings. Now her work is on display in Tel Aviv.

Some people sit down simply to take a load off their feet. Others sit to read, write, relax or pass the evening in front of the TV.  Dina Soker sits to hear messages and see visions, which she later stands up to paint. Press releases describe her as both an artist and a “channeler.”

What is channeling?  Soker says, “It’s the process of receiving messages from whatever is there – and I don’t know really what’s there. But, somehow, I end up knowing something I didn’t know before. And my choice has been to do something with the things I hear and see. I’ve never called this ‘channeling’ myself. To me, it’s just what comes to me through meditation.”

What kind of meditation could lead her to these ideas and images – maybe Zen, Tantric, or Vipassana “mindfulness” meditation? Replies Soker: “I’ve never studied any of those methods. I just sit still, breathe, focus within myself, and go into my center.”

She compares the state of mind she achieves while meditating to what many scuba divers experience underwater – detached from the world, enveloped in silence and thrilled by the strange and beautiful objects appearing all around them.

Contrary to expectation, “artist and channeler” Dina Soker, 45, does nothing to cultivate an eccentric image. No turban, no Navaho Indian bead necklaces. No New Age jargon or mysterious, distant facial expressions with sudden moments of unexplained silence.

Soker, instead, is a pleasant, good-humored and perfectly normal-looking woman who would look as much at home in an office or classroom as she does in a gallery full of her paintings. A native of Holon and subsequent resident of Modi’in, Soker now lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband Micha Eizen, a mechanical engineer, and their son.

In a Midwest US accent with occasional echoes of Holon, Soker explains that she was an artist long before she became a channeler.

“I was drawing and sketching since I was a small child, since I was old enough to hold a pencil. It’s been a passion all my life – even though my parents didn’t like it. They were very proud of my creations, but they told me that all the great artists died poor. This wasn’t the future they wanted for their child. They encouraged me to study a profession, which turned out to be accounting.”

Soker worked in that noble profession for three years until her son was born, by which time she had long realized that it just wasn’t for her.

She studied art and graphic design for four years at the Avni Institute of Art in Jaffa. She also taught art to grades 7-9 in Holon, and then at Modi’in’s first high school.

Although she did try her hand at a bit of sculpture when she began to create her own work, Soker’s oeuvre is painting, period. “For me, the connection is in the colors,” she says simply.

Soker says she began to perceive the images she paints almost exactly ten years ago.

“I had been meditating just to calm myself and relieve stress. Then suddenly, around March 2000, I actually saw visions of the painting that later became Genesis. It was like someone had taken a pencil and sketched the shapes. I didn’t see the colors, but I clearly saw the sketch.

“I was like, ‘Whoa!’ It was a perfect sketch, right before my eyes. I was fascinated. It was amazing. So I took paper and started to sketch it so I would not forget.”

Since that moment of visual epiphany, Soker has made it a point to always have paper and pencils close by during each of her meditation sessions.

Do the visions come from “out there,” or “in there” – someplace deep within her psyche? “I have no idea,” she says. Nor does she recall anything special or unusual going on in her life when the visions began.

An exhibition of paintings that Soker has created from messages and visions acquired through meditation is currently on display in Tel Aviv. Called “The Human Circle,” the show is meant to emphasize the importance of maintaining human “connectedness” in an impersonal digital age.

Despite the diversity of ideas behind the paintings, and the different concepts being expressed, certain similarities in color and design can be seen throughout the the exhibition, most notably an evident fascination with spheres. Why spheres? 

“When I was a little girl, I used to imagine myself as a sphere,” Soker recalls. “My idea was that I was whole and complete, I have everything inside me, nothing can harm me, I don’t need help from anyone, and I can do whatever I want. And I guess I’ve been walking around with this image all of my life.”

The paintings seem to emphasize ways in which the spheres – presumably humans – connect with each other, with the natural environment, and with a greater consciousness.

We found the paintings all beautifully cerebral, almost like pure mathematics, but virtually devoid of emotion.  Asked if they are meant to appeal more to the mind than the heart, Soker replies that this depends on the viewer, and not on the paintings.

“Some people react to the paintings that way.
Others find that a particular painting creates a kind of dialogue with them that involves deep emotional reaction. Some people said they felt scared of one of the paintings; other people looked at a painting and cried.”

Soker seems to suggest that the paintings are designed to act like Rorschach or TAT projective tests in psychology, to which people react according to their own personalities and experiences. “The same painting can activate reactions about money or love or pain, or of nothing at all.”

Unlike most other exhibitions in which the text mounted next to each painting is merely incidental and often goes unread, Soker explains that the text accompanying each and every one of her paintings is an actual part of the painting.

“The text expresses the core of what I saw or heard in my meditation, and this is what the painting was created from.”

The accompanying text for “Being a Woman,” for example, reads: “Sensuous curves… Softness… Compassion… Life giving… Mother… Wife… Invisible huge strength… Core of the family… Clear sight… Wisdom… Loving… Forgiving… Strong will… Sixth sense… Being a woman… All in one…”

Soker betrays an almost missionary zeal as she discusses the exhibition.

“My husband and I did this exhibit in order to
allow people exposure to these paintings. It’s not about Dina Soker. We saw that the paintings were influencing so many people... the colors actually vibrated when I had finished each of the paintings.

“I get emails from people who saw a painting telling me, ‘You cannot believe what it did to my life!’ People started to write to me, one lady saying she had a problem with her son and that one of the paintings made her see things differently.

“Another lady wrote to me that she suffered depression after giving birth, and after looking at these paintings on my web site, she feels she’s getting stronger and stronger. ‘I now feel that I can be the best mom in the world,’ she said.

“This was just from looking at the paintings and reading the text ... and breathing the cos Soker says she often gets emails from people who see things in her paintings of which she herself was unaware. Her favorite story concerns the visually very striking painting entitled “Deciphering the Journey,” for which the accompanying text reads in part: “There is a journey; it is life full and dynamic. We don’t know where it began… We don’t know where it goes… There is a way; I don’t know if I am going up, or going down…”
Soker says the painting provoked a particularly unexpected response.

“I got an email from a Catholic priest in the US. He wrote to tell me that he was fascinated by this painting, and said: ‘You have captured God’s creation.’

So this exhibition is for people, not for me. It’s our strong will to expose more people to these paintings and maybe, just maybe, help them to change their lives.”

“The Human Circle” is showing through April 4 at Beit Sokolov, 4 Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv; Sunday – Thursday 8:30-18:00; Friday 8:30-13:00. Soker plans to attend the exhibit every day to paint, meet new people and discuss her art.