Provenance

Footsteps

Almost two years ago I was approached by a fellow mixed media artist, Jill Berry to submit a piece of artwork for her upcoming book on art and cartography known as Personal Geographies. Hence I began the process of making one of my mixed media artist books.


 

As all my life-story books do, this book began with research. Combining art and genealogy resulted in my hand-made book “Arnold Does Not Play Here Anymore”. The process began with extensive interviews with my cousin Judith who, as a child, lived in Kiel, Germany.  Interviewing Judith was a difficult experience for it brought up memories of the ravages of war and, in particular, family lost in The Holocaust. The book maps the short life of Arnold, Judith’s adored first cousin, the son of my great uncle, Kalman and his wife Bertha.



Currently in Israel, I am running around the country researching my family history, interviewing those who can still give me first hand accounts of their Holocaust experience and help me piece together elements of the familial genealogy. Jewish genealogy has its challenges and can be almost impossible at times for during WW2, many  Jewish records were destroyed along with our people. Such is the case for the small shtetlach (villages) from which my families originated.


 

 

My first familial engagement here was a Bat-Mitzah where I met cousins familiar and those I had not yet had the opportunity to meet. Amongst the familiar was Judith. At one point Judith explained that her niece had donated an article of Arnold’s clothing to Yad Vashem. She then explained that she was sure she had a pair of his baby shoes at her home somewhere and was intent on finding them in order for us to go together to Yad Vashem and leave them with the outfit already donated.


 

As she said this, my jaw dropped. I said nothing, got up from the table and went to get my lap-top. Before opening the file that I wanted to show her, I asked Judith if she recalled my phone interviews with her some 18 months prior and a few months after I had sat in her home scanning whatever photos of the family she had. Additionally I enquired as to whether she recalled that I was making a piece of art about Arnold’s story. She replied in the affirmative.


 

 

 

Always difficult to describe my mixed media books for each one is unique and takes on differing forms in order to symbolically tell a life story, I showed her my raw images of the piece in progress. 

Now it was time for Judith’s jaw to drop. I had decided to create a book in the forms of shoe soles as part of a semi installation one component of which was the use of an old pair of children’s shoes that I had covered with the map of Kiel - the map’s placement on different parts of the shoes was critical to the telling of the story.

 

Both of us were astonished that not only did I choose to use a pair of children’s shoes for the piece but also to create the book in that form, something I had never done prior and one for which I had to come up with many new techniques to complete.


 

{book in progress}

Judith was not sure where Arnold’s shoes were that her mother had kept but she knew they were in her home somewhere. She had not seen or thought about them for decades. I visited Judith this week.

She found the shoes.

I held them… in the palm of one hand…in silence. 

The provenance of Arnold’s tiny shoes is a story in itself. How did the shoes make it to Israel if Arnold and his parent’s did not? A story for another time.

Is it then also a coincidence that whilst writing this post, I discovered, that this week is also the very same week that Jill’s book has been released? I think not, yet again.



Keeping the memory of Arnold, Kalman and Bertha alive seems to have involved more instances of Bashert (serendipity) and the knowledge that I am indeed on the right path at this moment of my life.

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