18 July 2007

Part 2 – “Numbers”


Our journey continues...

At the outset I would like to thank all of you who have commented and emailed me about “Numbers”.

I am so overwhelmed, humbled and grateful by the responses and the amazing comments you have left. It certainly is good for the soul. From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank you all so much!!! I do hope you continue to enjoy the journey.

Secondly I have got to thank Ingrid for photographing the piece. No matter what time I phone her and say, I need you to photograph some art for me, she puts everything on hold and does it for me. Most of the photo’s here are by her and the photo-shopping is by me.

Here we go:

I will now take you through the bottom section of the first half of this panel – that is the upper part.

You will recall I told you that Robert came over at my behest to ensure the progress of the piece met with his expectations. At that time I asked him if he still had the medals that Sam had from his time in the Russian Army. The response was no. But on seeing the piece Robert had wished he had them.

So what happened to them?

Allow me to go back into a bit of history to explain.

In the mid to late 1970’s a worldwide campaign to allow Jews and other political dissidents to leave the former Soviet Union occurred. Those Jews who wanted to leave were called “Refuseniks.”

Refusenik: was an unofficial term for individuals, typically but not exclusively Soviet Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate abroad by the authorities of the former Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. The term refusenik derived from the "refusal", handed down to a prospective emigrant from the Soviet authorities.

Post WW2, many Jews still encountered institutional anti-semitism which blocked their opportunities for advancement in all areas of life. Some government sectors were almost entirely off-limits to Jews. In addition, Soviet restrictions on religious education and expression prevented Jews from engaging in Jewish cultural and religious life.

While these restrictions led many Jews to seek to emigrate, requesting an exit visa was itself seen as an act of betrayal by Soviet authorities. Prospective emigrants requested permission to emigrate at a huge risk, knowing that an official refusal would often be accompanied by dismissal from work and other forms of social ostracism and economic pressure.

Anyway, at the time in Australia there were many protests outside of Russian Consulates and Embassy’s to free those Jews who requested to leave. This went on for years and years.
The coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s and his policies of glasnost and perestroika, as well as a desire for better relations with the West led to major changes. Most Refuseniks were then allowed to emigrate.

During one of these demonstrations, Sam threw back his medals to Consular Officials. It was his personal protest. Hence a friend of Sam’s many years later gave him a commemorative medal.
It is this medal that Robert asked me to somehow put in. He said, ‘I have no idea how you are going to do this”. Ahh but I had a general idea.

I ummed and ahhhed about its placement and eventually turned it on its side in order that I could add something to the right hand side.

Ahh but what to put on the other side? I was not sure for a day or two – so I decided to carry it around whilst in my studio. I held it for the longest time.

It was the final element to place in the piece. So I examined my work, pondered some more and decided to join Sam in his protest and make a statement as he would have done.

Hence I took an old draw pull which had no handle affixed. I wanted to attach the "Zachor" badge - meaning “Remember” to it somehow - the hebrew writing you see in the photo above.

I chose this particular draw pull as the background arch reminded me of how we symbolise the Torah, the Jewish Bible. I backed the pin on a brass plate and tied it to the drawer pull using the always useful “Nina knots”.
I placed the piece to the right of the medal.
In Jewish mysticism the right hand or right side is considered the strongest.
I felt putting it there was true to all that Sam fought and stood for in his life –
The ability for a people to overcome trajedy.
Sam symbolised strength.
Strength to fight back in times of war.
Strength to protest on others’ behalf who were not allowed their freedom.

I used a vintage book for these 2 photo’s.
The phot on the left is of Sam as a baby again. In the backround I placed a page of Hebrew text. The text is from the first page of The Book of Samuel.

I chose this not only because of the name. But because Samuel, in the Bible was the last of the Hebrew Judges and the first of the major prophets who began to prophesy inside the Land of Israel. He was thus at the cusp between two eras.
It seemed true that the Holocaust era and the life he led after having emigrated to Australia was like 2 different era’s.

Secondly as will come to light later in the piece… Samuel the prophet, after 20 years of Phillistine oppression, summoned the people and organised them into an army, and led them against the Philistines. As I said you will understand this more near the last couple of photo’s.

The next photo is one of Sam and his sister Broncha.

You may recall that Sam’s mother and Broncha were shot in front of him in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Look at how innocent and happy they are here.

They are in their backyard.

Notice how Sam the big brothers arms are resting on Broncha’s shoulders, he seemed very protective of her.

When I look at Broncha, she could be my child or your child -an innocent photo in the garden.
I adore her smile.
Who could have ever imagined that Sam would have to face the horror of seeing his beloved little sister shot right in front of him.

This is simply a larger photo of Sam which you will see next. I enlarged some of the photo’s in the piece so the family could, for the first time see him clearly.

Most of these photo’s, as vintage photo’s tend to be, are really small. I simply placed it in a era appropriate door plate.

But needless to say the middle was cut out to frame the photo.

Pictured here, that Roberts family knew of, is (from left to right) Sam’s Mother with Broncha on her lap. Then in the middle is Sam’s grandmother, with him in front of her. The lady to the right, with the baby, was unknown but assumed to be a relative.

I left the shape of the photo as was presented and backed it on a few layers of fabric. I chose the colour gold as Sam’s family was like gold to him, his treasures. However, I did paint and alter the fabric for ageing purposes, but not enough to detract from the colour.

So that’s the smaller part of panel 1. Here is what it looks like…

Wonders of Wonders:
A friend of mine and his wife came over on Sunday to see the piece. She is distantly related to Robert. I knew this as I attended a function recently and he had told me that they were family. At the function Annika asked me how they were related to each other! I seemed to have become the communal archivist and geneologist. So I got Robert to explain.

For panel 2, I needed a photo of the lady who sponsored Sam and Esther to emigrate to Australia. The lady ended up being Annika’s grandmother. Can you believe it? So she is getting me that photo. There’s more to this story but you will have to wait for panel 2. Amazingly though, Annika recognized the photo of the little girl in my last post who is unnamed. She is sure it is her aunt. She has taken the photo to her father to confirm who it is. Isn’t it a small world.

Well folks, next post I will upload the next part of panel 1 which is the larger one - double the size of this one with some more amazing stories to tell you. Sooooooo...
To be continued...


stephanie said...

Well, I cannot even begin to tell you how incredible I think your work is and wealth of history and knowledge it contains.

Do you ever show your work in the states?

Karen Cole said...

Everthing looks incredible. But I really get excited when I click on a photo and get a CLOSEUP. WOW!
What detail....and the aging process....

Ever think of teaching a workshop? (you know where)

Ro Bruhn said...

More fabulous work Judy, so rich and detailed. Do you have the metal plates engraved or do you do that yourself?
Sorry I didn't put any sneak peaks of your book in my photos, but there are more to come.

Judy said...

I stamp the metal plates myself - the smaller ones are quite awkward to do - the metal stamps are tiny.
Then I age them.

Jen Crossley said...

Judy the incredible detail to your work is brilliant,You have a great eye.
Thank you for sharing the meaning of your work it makes it come to life even more.

kelsey said...

Another wonderful instalment Judy, I know when I get my blogarithm email that tells me you've updated, I'm certainly in for a treat! You have a way with putting everything together so cohesively, but every little element also speaks for itself.

Steph said...

Amazing amazing...awsome awsome ... and these words dont even fit in ... You're a wizard!

azirca said...

WOW Judy! Does your talent never end? Once again you have amazed me with your brilliance. It must take you many many hours to create these gorgeous works of art, especially with all of the special 'Judy' touches that you add that make your work so unique and beautiful.

Sharon Manning said...

Wow, this looks amazing Judy, me thinks you should print off your "journal" and include it with the artwork, what an amazing read that would be in years to come!

Deryn Mentock said...

This is spectacular! You're doing an incredible job expressing the meaning and spirituality of life and death. What a touching family memoir.

Julie H said...

As soon as I saw you had updated I left the room. But, only to make a cup of tea to drink as I read the continueing story of Sam, and the details about how you are preserving his history. As I finished reading I looked up, and there was a very full, and very cold cup-of-tea.

I can not imagine the mental challenge you go through creaing this while caring for your family.

Sending you hugs.

Sharon said...

I was here first thing yesterday and mesmerised as I expected to be. Had trouble leaving comment but knew I would be back many times to drink in this incredible visual. I just can't even imagine how artistcally rewarding this must be/feel. I really can't. It is so inspiring and wonderful the way you share it.

Karen Owen said...

I can't wait to read more of the amazing stories and to see more of your beautiful and sensitive treatment of the subject.

You are so knowledgeable, and I'm learning so much. Thank you.


Bronwyn said...

I know I've mailed you, but I felt compelled to comment as well. As I see these images over the internet, your passion, compassion and caring for the people who's life stories you are expressing shines through. You have impossibly somehow managed to portray a brutal and horrific history in a way that is uplifting in a sense and conveys the sentiment that we shall never forget, we will continue to survive and overcome (that may sound cheezy but it's how your art and writing makes me feel). You are doing something very special.

Steph said...

Hi again Judy ! Thanks for the comments on my blog... here my e-mail : softshell75 at hotmail.com

lindaharre said...

Judy.....your are SOOOOOOO GOOD....This should all be in a book! Oh my....just wonderful!

Emmcee said...

Stunning work J ... love reading the story behind the work, altho it's all so sad ...

Ev said...

Thank you for the continuing journey you are taking us on - talent is too mild a word to describe you - I am glad I know you.

Debby Harriettha said...

No words to describe your artisitic talent. Thanks so much for sharing.

Rochambeau said...

Everything is coming together magnificently. You are so talented. You have done your homework in order to make this piece what it has become. Looking forward to seeing the next panel. Hope you are well.

craftyhala said...

beautiful ...the pictures of your work are always great to see. So much goes into them.

artsyfran said...

I have had your blog marked for a while, but I knew I'd need to have some quiet time to really sit and absorb all the emotion and meaning in your piece. Though I am not a direct descendant of a Holocaust survivor, I do know, as a Jew, what it is like to live with this in our history. You have really captured the mysticism and the meaning behind every bit of this panel. I can only imagine what Sam is thinking as he's helping you along this journey to chronicle his family's life. Thank you for sharing it all!