Saturday, July 21, 2007

Monday July 21

I went this Eve. with a
struggling artist to help him
sell some pictures, I took
bought two myself, that
are now adorning my walls.

This is the first day when
I started to work again,
and I am happy about
it, I shall [be able to] pay out my
debts now.


Who was the anonymous "struggling artist" Papa assisted on this cool summer evening? A neighbor? An acquaintance from Zionist meetings? Papa had been visiting Coney Island a lot lately, so maybe he struck up a conversation with an artist who regularly showed on the Boardwalk, learned he lived on the Lower East Side, and promised to give him a hand some time.
Or, more romantically, did Papa and his artist friend first meet at the Cafe Royale, gathering place for the Yiddish cognoscenti, and engage in a caffeinated conversation about the emerging "Hebrew" art movement in Palestine?

I'm also trying to imagine what kind of sales assistance Papa might have offered his friend. Did he help him lay out paintings on the sidewalk? Did Papa direct passers-by to his stand from down the block? Did he help guard his friend's booth at some kind of annual street fair or art fair? And, I wonder, what sort of art would a struggling artist, presumably Jewish, have pursued in the 1920's? What would Papa have purchased? A representation of the old country? Something more modern or experimental? Straight-up Judaica?

I don't pretend to know much about art of the 1920's, much less what was going on in the Jewish immigrant art community in New York, so I'll need to look into it more. (Please drop a comment or write if you think you can help narrow down the infinite possibilities.) Still, it's nice to see Papa treat himself to a couple of pictures now that he's returned to work after a three-week, forced vacation. More burdensome that the debts he ran up to support his family in the wake of his father's death has been his feeling that he doesn't truly belong anywhere -- he's an unnaturalized guest in America and, with his father gone, he can no longer think of Sniatyn as his home. Maybe his urge to decorate his apartment a little signals some small waning in his sense of dislocation.

1 comment:

  1. What a treat to find your project. I am planning to do the same with letters of my Grandmother's from 1912-1913.