Temple Beth Am archive hearth group at the exhibit opening on March 8, 2024. (Left to right: Gabriela, Dennis, Sandy, Ken, Mercer, Jan)

Group Artist Statement
This project started out in one of Temple Beth Am’s Spring 2023 Hearth Groups, “Using and Building Archives”. Our group members—Ken Winnick (group leader), Jan Blauer-Chima, Gabriela Hannach, Dennis Barnes, and Sandy Ginsburgh Barnes—set out to explore and document our histories and share ancestral stories of courage, survival, resilience, activism, and joy.
While reflecting on what it means to be caretakers of family records and memories, we felt inspired to dig deeper and visualize our family stories for the wider synagogue community. We brought in a local artist, Mercer Hanau, to talk about exploring her mixed-Jewish heritage through painting, printmaking, and sorting through her own family archive. Together, we created collages using copies of documents, photos, and objects from our archives (no original artifacts were harmed in the making of this art!). 
It can be daunting to construct a cohesive narrative from all the fragments left behind by past generations, but the process allows us to notice patterns within and between families and time periods. Fittingly, collage allows us to highlight the pieces that really speak to us from our collections and put them in conversation with each other in a multi-layered “constellation” of story-laden images. Like Jewish identity, the results are complex and nuanced. We hope that by sharing our stories, we encourage you to share your own. What do you relate to in our work, and what is different from your story? What objects and lessons do you feel are most important to pass on or carry into the future? What does it mean to be a good ancestor? How do we tell stories from the past to help shape a better, more peaceful future?
  - Curatorial statement written by Mercer Hanau
Clergy and Staff of Temple Beth Am, for their joyous support
The Shoreline Historical Museum, for generously allowing us to use their archive space for our work group
Artist in residence Mercer Hanau, for your creative guidance and thoughtful reflections on archives and identity
James Martel, Walter Benjamin writer and scholar, San Francisco State University, for his enlightening conversations and generous sharing of insights and ideas.

The word "Constellations" comes from Walter Benjamin, a Jewish-German philosopher who fled the Nazi regime in Germany, along with many others. The word is meant to imply that history can sometimes be illuminated with merely faint and incomplete light from the past.
Click the images in the gallery below to enlarge.

Back to Top