Divine aspiration

Leonard Nimoy’s photographs aim for the divine yet reveal more skin than spirit

A photo from the works of Leonard Nimoy.

A photo from the works of Leonard Nimoy.

She is light. She is maternal. She is compassionate. She is pure. She is the feminine manifestation of God, and photographer Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame attempts to capture her essence through the form of the human female. It’s a difficult task, considering the flawed nature of humans, as compared with the transcendent nature of the divine.

Nimoy explores the mystery of this spiritual entity through photographs of women in various states of undress, as well as through written personal inquiry in his new book, Shekhina. The photographs are on display at Sierra Arts Gallery at the Riverside Artists Lofts.

In his book, published by Umbrage Editions, Nimoy says, “I am intrigued with scriptural mythology that tells us that God created a divine feminine presence to dwell amongst humanity. … I have imagined her as ubiquitous, watchful and often in motion. This work is, in effect, the photographic image of the invisible.”

The photographs do epitomize something not seen by the everyday eye, but whether that “thing” comes through as spiritual or, instead, ghostly and sexual, is difficult to say. True, the photographs have an intangible and unworldly appeal. Most interesting is the interplay of light and dark. You cannot always tell at first glance what an image is, but upon closer inspection, it’s possible to discern the detail of both the shadowed and the lighted areas.

The most interesting photos, and perhaps the most successful at portraying godliness, are those in which a woman is fully wrapped in gauzy material that appears to be lit from beneath. Her body glows and her face is barely visible. If there are any pictures that have come close to representing the invisible Shekhina, these are they.

Overall, I was not satisfied with Nimoy’s photographs of half-naked women walking through the woods, hanging gauze over their heads or holding lights in their hands as representative of the loving and motherly supernatural being. In the Jewish tradition, Shekhina serves to intercede with the masculine and daunting notion of God on behalf of her children. She alleviates the severity and harshness sometimes associated with Judaism. But, while the females in Nimoy’s photos are attractive, alluring, preoccupied and sometimes brooding, they expressed nothing maternal or protective. Nimoy’s fascination appears to be much more rooted in something material and sensual and not in the divine, as he purports.

While it is worth your time to take a look at the eerie photos, do not expect anything revelatory. Leonard Nimoy has not boldly gone where no man has gone before.