My Mother's Stories, Served with Bagels and Locks
By Nava Atlas
New Paltz, New York: Amberwood Press, Inc., 2022. Edition of 40.
8.5"w X 11" h X 1/2"d,; 22 pages. Digital offset with flip-out covers. Wire-o binding. Signed and numbered by the artist.
Nava Atlas: "Sometime after my mother's death in 2003, I found a small notebook in which she related brief vignettes of migrating in 1930, from the small town in Poland where she grew up, to Palestine. How and why a seventeen-year-old left her large, loving Jewish family, accompanied only by a friend, is still a story for the ages. Next, she told of her emigration in 1956 (now as a wife and mother of three) from what had become Israel, a place she loved, to join her three surviving sisters in Detroit.
“In 2005, I created the triptych ‘My Mother's Stories, Served with Bagels and Locks’ using plates, clay ‘bagels,’ and hardware locks. On the plates and in the background, snippets of my mother's notebook are enlarged, hinting at but not quite revealing the full meaning of the pages. With many of her immediate family members having been murdered in Treblinka during the holocaust, the locks signify the secrets and painful memories inherent in survivor's guilt.
“Fast (or not so fast) forward to 2021, when I once again came across my mother's notebook among my possessions. During the pandemic, it somehow felt more urgent to consider where we've come from and those we've lost. With migration, refugee populations, and antisemitism still very much a part of today's social landscape, I felt compelled to preserve my mother's story in a more complete way.
“Though she doesn't provide a lot of detail, and her English (her fourth language) isn't fluent, the brief vignettes of her journeys provide context for the original ‘Bagels and Locks’ piece. The result is a limited-edition artist's book and a suite of twenty-four small archival prints completed in 2022. Though this project provides a glimpse of just one Jewish migrant's life, it speaks to the universal experiences of loss shared by those who move across oceans, and the struggle to regain a sense of belonging in new lands."