The things that stick with you

Yesterday, in celebration of my mom-in-law’s fabulous birthday, the three of us (The mom-in-law, The Good Man and me), loaded up for a trip to a museum.

It’s become our tradition on birthdays. We have a day of culture in celebration. Memorable days are the best presents ever.

Yesterday’s destination was The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

I was unsure what to expect when we got there. Would it be Jewish artifacts? Would it be art made by Jewish artists?

But I love museums, so I was totally in.

I was fully unprepared for what awaited me. There were just three main exhibits, as the museum itself isn’t that large.

The first exhibition we visited was called: “Our Struggle”: Responding to Mein Kampf

I’d read online how French painter and photographer, Linda Ellia, took on a project to have artists and non-artists alike transform the pages of Hitler’s nasty tome.

From the website:

“The book’s weight in her hands embodied the heaviness of the Holocaust; she felt compelled to respond. After personally altering a number of the pages to express her anger, she invited hundreds of people from all over the world to paint, draw, sculpt, and collage directly on the pages of the book.”

I could not have begun to imagine how tragic, and beautiful, and life affirming the exhibit would be.

There were over 600 altered pages on display, each one with a unique voice, a unique pain, a unique promise.

There were pages done by professional artists and pages done by random people that Linda met in coffee shops and on the street.

The works were sometimes simple and elegant, like the page where every word was carefully excised, leaving only a page of small rectangles. Or a page where every letter was made into a small figure of a person.

In some cases, the works were very extravagant, a train, in exquisite detail, done in watercolors, completely covering the page. Or an intricate felted and painted heart that was then sewed and stapled to the page.

Each page transformed the words of hate into a work of art. Truly, deeply, reclaiming those pages.

I don’t know if my description or the websites description even does the exhibit justice. It was one of the most profound things I have ever witnessed.

And this one will stick with me for a while.

(image of The Contemporary Jewish Museum, from their website)

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  • Elise

    I really want to see this. Sounds amazing. I'm going to have to talk Husband into a road trip.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Elise, I thought of you when I was writing the blog post. I know from reading your blog/tweets that you appreciate art and artists.

    It really was profound….

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