Friday, February 8, 2013

Symbolic Content of "Treatise"

The entire installation of Treatise, © 2013 Lynn Goldstein, books, wood and acrylic paint

I mentioned in my previous post that I would explain all the symbolism inherent in the piece that I made to commemorate the Holocaust The symbolism in the installation is as follows:

Why Books—
Education is an important tenet in the Jewish tradition. Books are also everyday objects that many take for granted. The "everyday" was forever altered for those who were persecuted during the Holocaust. Books also tell stories of people’s lives, so their use is particularly poignant given the lives that were destroyed. The book covers are not damaged, but the interiors of the books are distressed in various ways. The reason behind the decision to maintain the integrity of the book covers is to indicate that we all have stories; these stories are often hidden by the masks that we wear, but often, if one scratches the surface, wounds are apparent. The books are printed in Polish, Russian, German, Italian, French and Yiddish. That choice was an important one because the people tyrannized during the Holocaust were not foreign enemies, but citizens of the very governments that attempted to  annihilate them. The Yiddish book illustrates that the Jewish people were not completely destroyed and that a ray of hope still existed after World War II ended. Twelve books are used to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. The Jewish forefather, Jacob, fathered twelve sons and they are the ancestors of the Tribes of Israel.

Why a Tree Image—
Trees are an important symbol in many religious traditions. In Judaism, the tree is referred to as the Tree of Life and is a symbol that sustains and nourishes human beings. The Torah, or Jewish Written Law, is also referred to as the Tree of Life. The tree that I have drawn on the covers of the books is either dead or dormant. Further, the tree image is fractured rather than being solid since it is made up of different pieces. This is to symbolize the lives that were broken. However, there is hope expressed by the sapling that is depicted on the cover of the Yiddish book, which is in the lower right corner of the installation.

Why a Rack—
Again, I endeavored to utilize an object that had the appearance of an item that could be used every day.

Why a Pitcher, Bowl and Towel —
After attending a Jewish funeral and visiting the gravesite, one would not enter the home of the bereaved without rinsing one’s hands. There are those who would believe this practice is a way to banish evil spirits, and there are others who would simply see it as a life-affirming ritual after an encounter with death. The books have pastel on them. Therefore, when handled, pastel will get on viewer's hands. The water in the pitcher is there for visitor's to rinse off the pastel. This symbolizes the fact that if we hurt one another, we are all affected by the pain that is inflicted.

James and I will be installing the piece at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia on February 11 where it will be on view until April 15.

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