Paternal Web


Paternal Web 72dpi

In honor of Father’s Day, here is a painting I did many years ago of the father-son relationship.  Spanning three generations, the image was inspired by my studies, at the time, of Inuit art.  I had xeroxed and spiral bound an entire book on the subject which I found in the library.  The book was out of print, and I simply had to have it, so I copied the entire book.  Its influence fed me in my quest for simplicity.  Both traditional and contemporary Inuit art gave me geometric ways of expressing human nature.

I grew up without brothers, so when I became the mother of a son, it was not only new to have a child, but to watch a boy grow up.  Watching Jonah’s relationship with his father develop was fascinating.  The connection that grew between them drew its threads – some of them sinister – from the grandfather as well, and beyond to my [ex]husband’s ancestors.  My father, though my son never knew him well before he died, mysteriously emerged in his grandson’s body language.  Even my uncle’s traits showed up in my son’s personality.  And as I sat with the mothers of other little boys while our children played, I heard stories of paternal webs equally intricate, equally long-reaching in their impact.

How much choice does a young man have in what he truly inherits?  Whatever is handed down from the father and grandfather will be handed down to his own son and grandson.  Both complex and subtle, all these strands form a powerful web.  Watching my son grow up, it was almost too much for words.  So, I painted a picture!

Happy Father’s Day!


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Three Father & Child Images

All images are available as greeting cards for Father’s Day.

Father & DaughterAll artwork © Durga Yael Bernhard

Father & Daughter
(above) was painted in the early 1980s.  I was studying art and busily immersing myself in ancient traditions from all over the world – especially African.  I was also studying the I-Ching and the psychology of Carl Jung, both of which gave me the language of archetypes.  With this language, I could begin to understand the dynamic dualities that make up our world – and I could think of images and symbols in new ways.

One such duality was that of fathers and daughters.  The polarity between the older, wiser, protective masculine and the young, carefree, naive feminine was visible in my own daughter’s relationship with her father, as well as that of a close woman friend with her dad.  I sought to contrast these opposite figures with a bold, earthy design.

Father & ChildFather & Child (right) is a linoleum block print.  Watching my son as a toddler with his father, I was amazed by the different body language between them (compared to how he was with me).  My son seemed to enjoy the strong grip of his father’s hand, and never lost interest in his rough chin.  There was something bold but tender in their relating, which I tried to capture as I carved this image.

Incarnation of the Sun (below) is one of my most popular older paintings.  Here is the essential masculine energy that every child draws from his or her father like the energy of the sun. The tenor of the father’s voice, the warmth and breadth of his body, the physical power and gentleness of a man all affect his child at a cellular level.

Incarnation of the SunAll three images are available as 5″x7″ greeting cards for Father’s Day.  They’re usually blank inside, but for the holiday I will print “Happy Father’s Day!”  Order cards by filling in the titles here.

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The Pieceworker

The Pieceworker 72dpi© DURGA YAEL BERNHARD

Here is a painting from my forthcoming calendar, The Jewish Eye 5778/2018 Calendar of Art.  I painted this in April, but the idea was in my head for a long time – ever since my daughter and I visited Ellis Island in 2015.

Growing up with an immigrant grandmother and immigrant stories that filled movies, textbooks, and literature, my imagination overflows in a patchwork image that represents both a single life – that of my maternal grandmother – and the lives of all New York immigrants of the early 1900s.  Driven from the poverty and persecution of Europe, they worked day and night to support themselves and their families.  Here a “pieceworker” takes on extra work at night, sewing a cuff or collar to be added later to a quantity of blouses.  The young seamstress lives a patchwork life of old and new, religious and secular, dreams and reality – pieced together in a puzzle of tenements, stairwells, and alleyways – with the open sea behind her and beyond that, the life she left behind.

The Jewish Eye 5778/2018 Calendar of Art will be going to press in a few weeks!

A good week to all –


D Yael Bernhard
Author / Illustrator of
LOVE ISNew! – a unique crossover book for all ages
THE LIFE OF AN OLIVENew!! Explore the life of a 2000-year-old olive tree
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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