Monday, November 17, 2014

Creating a Family Portrait in Collage

Permission of Susie Stonefield Miller
Yesterday, before I attended my final writers' support workshop, I went to a first annual Festival of Yiddish Culture, sponsored by my local synagogue. Two blissful hours were spent inside the artist studio of Susie Stonefield Miller, who rents a large and lovely art space in the building and offers year-round drop-in art journaling workshops for women, tween girls and teens. (See Susie's amazing art journal pages here.)

During her free-flowing 2-hour workshop on creating a Jewish family heritage collage, with Yiddish music as a backdrop, I collected far more materials than I could possibly use: scrapbook papers, photo corners, Ellis Island records, New York photos and vintage pictures of Jewish immigrant families, etc. Susie had plentiful boxes full of these papers, photocopied photos and other things like rubber stamps and tape available for our use. The task of sorting and arranging images at first felt a bit overwhelming, not unlike re-arranging words on a page, but then I welcomed the task of creating a family narrative with visual imagery, using found materials--a watercolor tree, a locket, a postcard, a luggage tag, Hebrew writing--to enhance my own family photos to create this triptych:

That's my grandfather's father, Hyman Zimmerman, on the bottom left, and his parents above--Morris, born in 1850, and Chaszka Zelda, born in 1852. My grandfather's mother, Dora Gabarsky, stands with her three eldest children on the bottom right (before they came to America from Poland?) with her mother, Hasza Tikochinsky, above. According to our cousin Donna, the family genealogist, "the family immigrated separately - Hyman first, then Dora and the 3 oldest girls. All documents have their names in Yiddish." 

This middle photo shows both parents with their 10 children; my grandfather as a young boy stands in the middle. (He was born in Brooklyn.) The photo below it is the 1988 family reunion.

I only recently came upon these photos from Donna at our 2011 family reunion in Cleveland, Ohio--with five generations including my grandfather, Jack Zimmerman, and his two remaining sisters at that time, my Aunt Hen and Aunt Ruthie. It was the last time I saw my beloved Grandpa Zim. He died soon after at the age of 96, followed by his sister Hen at 99.

My Great Aunt Ruthie--just a baby sitting on her father's lap in the portrait--is thriving at 92 years young. She still lives independently, tells family stories and enjoys visits from her own great-grandchildren. Here she is with one of them this summer. I come from a long line of longevity!

1 comment:

Karina said...

Your collages are beautiful! Did you get the pics from your aunt or did you find them in the archives?

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