Israeli artist and lecturer Tamar Avni uses her photography to explore several issues including gender, politics, media, and culture. Inspired by Francisco de Zurbarán's portraits of holy women, Avni recently found herself in a deep scrutiny of the relationship between subject and artist. This investigation eventually led to her taking on both roles in her own work, using the force of her own personality as her artist's materials. The way a painter might use oils or acrylics, Avni completes her studio portraits from her series, FAN, with the complicated, multidimensional characters of her subjects. In FAN, her female models interact with the artist, the audience, and the gaze of popular media in large-scale expository portraits.
In her series In The Orchard, Avni's female subjects leave the studio and are brought to her childhood home. In opposition to the studio shots which focus solely on the subject, the work in this series takes a step back to examine her influence and and interactions with the environment around her. The series confronts the subject and viewer with the Talmudic story Pardes, about four Rabbis who aim to investigate the orchard of Paradise:
Four men entered pardes – Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Archer (Elisha ben Abuyah) and
Akiba. Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and went mad; Archer destroyed
the plants; Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.
The women in Avni's photographs are sent into the artist's orchard to investigate their own, more personal issues, in hopes that they will fare better than the Mishnaic rabbis of the Talmud.
Avni is involved in a growing movement in Israel called “Women Wage Peace,” aiming to advance women's role in negotiations in the Middle East, encouraging leaders on both sides to work towards a peaceful agreement.