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2001-2007 Print E-mail

THE GOLDEN SHIP

2006-2007

With age and the deaths of our family members, childhood memories come alive and the past stands vividly before our eyes. After both my mother and brother died, I kept finding mementos in our old Warsaw apartment and was inundated with memories. This inspired a series of yellow installations of which The Golden Ship is the most recent one.
Life is a stormy trip across the sea and the ship – an ancient metaphor and a favorite toy of children and adults – has been appearing in my reveries and nightmares. The Golden Ship, a large silk cutout to be suspended in air, is an homage to my brother whose life was truly shipwrecked. Depicted as a boy with a hamster face, he is the captain of our ship of fools & the dead.


1-3 Ship in the Paris Studio, 2006 | 4-5 The Toy Ship, 2007

Passengers from The Golden Ship were installed on the Kamo River bank in Kyoto and in the Fushiminari Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to a couple of foxes, the omnipresent Shinto divinities of good luck & commerce, to whom the worshippers bring gifts. After my return from Japan I made Toy Ship for my brother.


1-2 Ship Passagers at the Fushiminari Shrine | 3-6 on the Kamo River Bank, Kyoto


TABOO

2005

My mother told us a story of a small marmotte – an invalid survivor of “the avalanche on the Eastern Slope” – named Tabus, the diminutive of taboo. It took me a long time to understand how she tried to convey wartime taboos and fear of losing her children. The Taboo Installation combines childhood memories with my mother’s hallucinations and hints at two journeys. One was real and led us to Austria. The other is an imaginary trip of two children revisiting “the Eastern Slope”. The boy jumping rope has my brother’s face, the girl holding a yellow hoop has my face. The children are the same age as my brother and I when we arrived in Vienna in January 1959.



1-5 Piotr & Ewa

Taboo was commissioned by the Jewish Culture Festival in Cracow and exhibited by Artemis Gallery. The beautiful young girl in a long dress is my future grandmother Paulina Raaber, annihilated by “the avalanche” together with her husband Hirsch and her daughter Hilde. Two silk cutouts were made after a photograph of Paulina. Her standing figure was pinned to a yellow cotton curtain, her seated figure to a bench drawn on transparent silk. Winged Death, sketched after a baroque German sculpture, floats above my grandmother’s shoulder.


1-5 Artemis Gallery, Cracow, 2005, photo: Iwona Ornatowska Semkowicz

My mother’s favorite painter was Vincent van Gogh. Once, she showed me a reproduction of his Shoes and asked me to paint blue shoes and a trumpet for her sister Hilde. The trumpet player is made of transparent plastic and carries on his shoulder a tiny striped monkey with a long tail. It’s a present I had given my brother.


1-2 Paulina On The Bench | 3 Blue Shoe & Van Gogh Books | 4 Piotr | 5 Trumpet Player with Striped Monkey

My brother liked to jump rope as I ran after my hoop. Our playing together was often interrupted by my mother’s sudden fits of anxiety. The fits had something to do with two well-known photographs found in her desk. One shows two girls in Amsterdam. Anna Frank is jumping rope and greatly resembling my brother, her older friend is holding a hoop. In the second photo women and children are being led to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. In my cutouts, the boy jumping rope has Anna Frank’s body and my brother’s face, and the girl with the hoop is Anna’s friend with my face.


YELLOW BIRDS FLY

2001 – 2003


1 Yellow Pillow | 2-3 At Work, wearing my mother’s scarf with a reproduction of van Gogh’s Boats
4 Paulina With Her Father

My mother often spoke of our house of time populated by dear shadows. Her words inspired the installation Yellow Birds Fly, a cotton house for yellow silk silhouettes of my relatives and me. The cutouts echo childhood memories of cutting figures and their outfits from paper sheets, and an early poem in my collection Miss Anima:

art is a woman’s dress
easily creased and torn
yet the patterns stay
in the pupil of the eye


1 Miriam & Hilde | 2-3 At Work, silk figure on a stool | 4 Mother With Yellow Napkin | 5 Mother With Hilde
6 Mother With Us

There are many portraits of my mother in this installation. At the center of a yellow curtain she holds a napkin with the faces of starving children she could not forget. For my mother the past was coded in yellow, the color of sun, food and van Gogh’s Sunflowers hanging over her sofa. Yellow, however, also symbolized suffering, destruction and death.


1-6 Details of Curtain,Yellow Birds Fly

“Our house of time” is made of white and yellow cotton walls covered with traces of yellowish paintings and shredded silk. Yellow birds fly from West to East, and carried with them, as if by a storm, are bits and pieces of bodies and clothing. The features are highlighted in yellow, marking us like a yellow star or band.


Bois de Vincennes, 2003: 1-3 Miriam & Hilde | 4 Paulina | 5 Mother With Us

As wind tears at the silk cutouts placed outdoors, the fragility of humans in flight comes to mind. The pair of girls in identical dresses are my future mother Miriam with her sister Hilde. Miriam was saved by my future father, Hilde did not survive. In Mother With Us, my brother is drawn with the face of a bearded man who may be our grandfather. I discovered his picture amongst family photographs stashed away in my mother’s old winter shoes.

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