Such is the work Self Portrait with Mighty / Closed Eyes, a personal interpretation (and homage) to Aram Gershuni’s work bearing a similar title, Self Portrait with Closed Eyes. The closed eyes of the artist, that do not look at his figure while painting, but rather absorbed with his inner imaginary world, turn, in Ben Dov’s work, to another meaning of the word Atzumot (closed) in Hebrew, that alludes to gigantic eyes, reminiscent of the idiom ‘having eyes bigger than one’s stomach’. With this allusion, Ben Dov refers to the eyes of the viewer, who is asked by the artist to capture and complete the figure out of his own memory, but also refers to a person having gigantic, or big, eyes, who wants to gluttonize.
Another homage to a well-known cultural icon is found in Self Portrait with a Hat, which is a portrait of the artist with many hats, reminiscent of the many self-portraits of Magritte with the immortal bowler hat. Like in, the viewer of this work also has to complete in his imagination the human figure, which can be discerned only with effort. Ben Dov actually moves the center of gravity from representing a human figure to the objects identifying and defining it, in this case – the hat that can be seen three times, in a quick hovering movement. This is a hat in the sense of “changing hats – changing roles” – the artist’s role as having a social, cultural and personal responsibilities.
Hands of Gold – Touching the Edge while Standing Tall, is a life-size self portrait, a version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Here, too, there is only a silhouette of a white figure, this time on a golden leaves background. The title of this work alludes playfully to these golden leaves, the material from which the work is made of, and also using the term for a person having high technical skills. The one that has ‘hands of gold’ is the artisan – the artist, but also the sculptor and the angel. The Vitruvian man is a person with perfect proportions, having harmonic relationship with nature, which brings him closer to God. Ben Dov explores playfully the Vitruvian image, and also examines the limits of the artist as a divine entity.
In contrast to this glittering work, there is a work made of most humble materials –Wanted, a self portrait constituted of about fifty post messages sent to Ben Dov and announcing him he has registered mail to claim from the post office, mail which was never claimed (“And I am sure these are not candy boxes waiting for me there” he says). As opposed to the golden leaves romantic and intimate works, this work is a defiance of Ben Dov as a person and an artist against the pressure of bureaucracy that turned him into a destitute ‘wanted’. The usage of the jute material as a support for the work emphasizes his cry more intensely – the jute is a cheap and simple fiber, serving for preparation of sacks and coarse cloths. And here we are carried by our imagination to a wide variety of idioms and phrases in Hebrew that testify to the artist’s protest – a punching bag (in Hebrew, literally, a punching sack), a potato sack, “put sackcloth upon his loins” (a mourning practice, Genesis, 37, 34).