Mike Leaf

Arrival in Tzfat

In 1957, Mike Leaf, then a young man in his early twenties, arrived in Israel from England. Mike had a strong Zionist background, and he had decided to settle in Israel. He wandered through a series of different occupations until he began to paint, and when he opened his gallery in Tzfat, his work was well received.

Mike continued to search for other means of expressions in his art. While his painting received positive reception and reviews, he wanted to find a mode of creativity which would reflect his surroundings. He had a keen eye for the observation of the follies of humanity, and he wanted to express what he saw.

Finding Expression

In Central America in 1981, Mike paid close attention to wooden sculptures that he saw throughout the countryside, and when he returned to Israel, he began working with paper mache, experimenting with various textures, colors and forms which would allow him to show, through his art, the people, customs, traditions, characteristics, and day-to-day life that he was observing in Israel.

Mike's paper mache sculptures are immensely popular. His gallery is a mini-Israel, showcasing Israelis of various ethnicities and religious groups. His attention to detail is such that in an instant, one can understand exactly what he is representing, with all the innuendos and meanings. In addition to paper mache, he has worked with lino, wood and silk screen prints.

Israelis Through Mike Leaf's Art

A woman returning from the open-air market has the purposeful expression of a matron who has just completed her week's purchase of vegetables and fruits and is on her way home to prepare meals for her family.

A motorcycle-riding Hassid, sidecurls flying, concentrates on the road ahead, an expression of glee on his face as he gets set to race through the crowded streets of his neighborhood, defying convention with his 'bike'.

Mike's representation of a group of people pushing and shoving to get on a bus is, any Israeli can tell you, exactly what happens when a bus pulls up to a crowded bus stop during rush hour - soldiers, civilians, mothers dragging their children, and hatted-Hassids all intent on making sure that they are not left behind.

And arguably Mike's most famous sculpture is of a t-shirted man, stomach poking out of his shirt, napping in an easy chair after his Shabbat "cholent". Cholent, a traditional Shabbat stew, is known for being heavy and sleep-inducing, and Mike's representation of the satiated man enjoying his Shabbat nap is an image that anyone who is familiar with the post-Shabbat lunch will instantly recognize.

Mike no longer exhibits in Tzfat. His work can be seen on his website.