My First MezuzotIn early 1993, I was a sophomore at San Francisco State University in my second semester of the 'Metal Art and Jewelry' class. The professor, Dawn Nakanishi, gave an assignment to use the hydraulic press.
My first idea was to make three lockets. (I love hinges and things that work.) The first locket had a peace sign surrounded by petals, the next would have a heart, and the third would have a Jewish star encircled by barbed wire. I showed my designs to my professor Dawn who became both puzzled and concerned. The Jewish star ringed by barbed wire drew her attention and she wanted to know what it meant. With a lump in my throat, I whispered that my grandparents had survived the Holocaust.
Then she pointed to the peace sign and the heart, and wondered why I kept using these symbols in my work. "What is it about peace and love?" she asked. "I want you to express yourself without using a cliché." Just like that, she rejected my project, encouraging me to dig deeper. She told me that she believed in me, and she thought I could do better.
I spent a week in anxious panic. What was it about peace? I thought. At this point, several things in my life just came together.I was taking a class called 'Holocaust and Genocide' where I learned about the Holocaust from both a historical perspective as well as from my family's personal history. I went straight from that class to my metals class several times a week.
While learning about my grandparents' experience in the Holocaust, my grandpa and I found a new connection-metal. The first time I sat down at the bench, I knew I loved working with metal. It just felt right. The hours melted away. I learned that my grandfather, along with most every male relative on that side of the family, was a machinist and tool and die maker. They owned a factory in Poland before the war where they made the machines that make candles. My grandpa began giving me his hand tools which I treasured using. (And still do!)
With all this in mind, the idea of making mezuzot materialized. I created my first die to make three different mezuzot. However, all that came out were images of flame, jail bars, decay, and pointed barbed wire. I had many intense moments of tears and revelation. I thought about why visions of peace and love were so important to me. I realized that the Holocaust was deeply influencing my life.
Once the mezuzot were finished, I explained the story behind the work to my class. I told them that I loved using the metal in such a meaningful and permanent way; and by making mezuzot, I was preserving a tradition. "But," I asked, "how could there be a G-d when something like the Holocaust happens?" I burst into tears. I knew, in that moment, that this was my first true expression of art.
© 2006 Aimee Golant - 945 Taraval Street #164, San Francisco CA 94116 - (415) 682-7128 - email@example.com