Chaim Bezalel and Yonnah Ben Levy

Artists Chaim Bezalel and Yonnah Ben Levy collaborate on art and marriage.

It’s the 19th year that artists Chaim Bezalel and Yonnah Ben Levy will open their home, the historic Stanwood House, to the Camano Island Studio Tour. 

In addition to their art, they’ll have five new cross-genre books on hand. The day after the tour, they’ll fly to New York City to present their books at two national book fairs. 

At Book Expo, Bezalel and Ben Levy will lead a panel discussion on “Cross-Genre, Breaking the Mold.” Their books cross genres to tell stories using several mediums, including painting, photography, poetry and essays. 

Next the duo will speak at the Jewish Book Council about their book, “Touching on Place,” which presents the history of Israel through architectural elements depicted through paintings, photographs and historical descriptions. 

“So what we are interested in, besides beauty is preservation, which is why we preserved Stanwood House and why we documented architectural elements in Israel, before some of them disappear,” Bezalel said.

Both artists spend their time in Stanwood and Israel. He grew up in New York and she grew up in the Seattle-Mercer Island area. They met in Israel when Ben Levy was marrying her second husband in 1988. Bezalel was the wedding photographer.

“The photographer came and married the bride,” Bezalel translated, pointing out an article with Hebrew headlines from a popular Israel magazine that hangs proudly in the Stanwood House. 

Ben Levy’s second marriage didn’t last long; she attributes it to her big artist ego. 

“I’ve learned in my work that failure is not a bad thing; it sometimes leads to new magic,” she said about both her art and her bonds with Bezalel. “We forged our relationship in Israel for 10 years before we came here.”

Bezalel and Ben Levy first focused on a collaboration of art and spirit.

“So there would be no professional jealousy or competition, we made a pact to temporarily suspend all of our individual artistic pursuits in order to make a collaboration,” Bezalel said. “Over time the collaboration has developed as we’ve developed. We got back our individual pursuits. So there are three artists now: me, her and us.”

The couple moved from Israel back to the U.S. in 1998, to Bezalel’s historic family farm in upstate New York. They started a series of collaborations that are now compiled into a book, “American Scrolls.” This archival book of 150 paintings follows their journey through several regions, including Central Park, the Oregon Coast, Olympic Peninsula, the Cascades, Puget Sound and the Stillaguamish River. The book has a section on the Hudson River Valley, which was the birthplace of the Hudson River School, an art movement of the mid 1800s, which elevated the idea of the American landscape, Bezalel said. 

Bezalel’s book “Public Works,” begun during his tenure on the Stanwood Planning Commission, considers the role of the public sector in America today. It begins with a series of poems entitled “Report from the Planning Commission,” addressing items on the actual agenda, for example: “On chickens we’re boosters, but restrictions on roosters within the limits of the city....” The book also contains images of art based on public works within the city of Stanwood as well as other cities in the world. Find more at dekelpress.com or stop by the Stanwood House, 9915 270th St. NW, Stanwood during the Camano Island Art Studio Tour.


Book signing

On Flag Day, June 14, Bezalel and Ben Levy will present their books at a signing at Stanwood Library, 9701 271st St. NW, Stanwood, at 6:30-8 p.m. Copies of each book will be donated to the Camano Island and Stanwood libraries. 

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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