"Tallesim", watercolour on paper, 11x14"

"Tallesim", watercolour on paper, 11x14"

A close friend recently suggested  that I share more of the stories behind the evolution of a painting, and between me as the artist, and the person who makes one of my works their own.  Some of them are hard stories, full of pain and catharsis, many are filled with joy, but all of them are great.

This piece I created several years ago, was part of my own journey to process and try to make sense of my family's history. Anyone  who grows up as the child of a Holocaust survivor spends much time in this process.  We get into it thinking sense can be made of it, but soon discover that it is folly, yet we stay in the process as it is the only honest place to be.

The painting was one of several done during the initial period of that process for me.  It is inspired by a photograph I saw of a mountain of tallit (prayer shawls) that had been confiscated from prisoners of the Majdanek concentration camp.  All of the paintings done during this time were not meant to be sold, but kept for me and my children, as a diary of our history and my own interaction with that history.

Shortly after completing this piece, our family was headed to the States to live for a couple of years, and before leaving, my ex-husband's boss, an Israeli living in Vancouver, had asked to get together with us for a good-bye lunch and if I could please bring along my catalogue of paintings, he would really like to see....

We met with him on yet another beautiful day on Vancouver Island....  It was the first time I was meeting him.  After introductions and some light conversation, he asked to see my book of paintings.  I handed it to him with trepidation, as I always did with anyone who wanted to look (we artists have a love/hate relationship with marketing).  And at the time, the first pages of my catalogue were of family history and the Holocaust, so the mixed feelings were especially churned. He opened the cover of the book to the picture of "Tallesim", bowed his head and began to weep.  My ex and I were silent.  It was a holy moment.  One I will never forget.  We waited until he was able to speak, then he told his story.  His father too was a survivor of the Shoah, and the only one left on his side of the family.  He asked me, if I could find it it in my heart to part with the painting, he would like to buy it.  The rest of our visit was spent sharing our stories.... 

I was very torn about parting with this piece, and it took several days of wrestling to decide.  Artists know their paintings are like children, we are very attached to them, so letting them go is like letting go of our grown children.  We have to learn to hold lightly to them in order for them to go were they are meant to be.  In the end I knew that if anyone other than myself was meant to have this painting it had to be him.  He had commissioned another piece that I had yet to paint, but on our way out of town I left "Tallesim" with him. 

I knew the painting had found its home....

Comment