MARJORIE SIMON - JEWELER WRITER EDUCATOR

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Houses and Barracks / Housing and Warehousing

The inspiration for “Houses and Barracks/Housing and Warehousing” evolved over more than a year’s time. In the spirit of “start with what you know,” I return to a house theme when beginning a new body of work. Though it may change over time, connection to Home is universal.

The sequence of events went something like this: At the Bauhaus Museum in Tel Aviv I was taken with colorful workingmen’s houses designed by architect Bruno Taut, forced to leave Germany by the early 1930s. On a creative retreat I talked with noted woodworker Wendy Maruyama, who was beginning her monumental “Tag Project,” an installation deaijng with the American detention camps created to house Japanese citizens during WWII. While researching images of abandoned buildings I was struck by the similarity in structures used to house prisoners at Auschwitz and Manzanar. Despite the obvious historical differences between the two locations, the architecture for warehousing human beings was all too similar.

I began constructing peaked-roof dwellings that were folded up from a single sheet of metal, using vitreous enamel for permanent, rich color. Stitching them together at the seam gave a surgical as well as domestic subtext, and was also a sign that they had been fabricated by hand. Acid etching the enameled surface created a desired chalky finish, which was echoed in the gessoed acrylic tiles that form the modular base.

Then an unexpected layer of meaning came into the work. I had been looking for a way to reconcile the extremes of culture and destruction in a single country in the 20th century. Riding the train from Munich to Dachau in 2014, I noticed the landscape was dotted with small, colorful, peaked-roof houses, much like the ones I had been making. The geographical and cultural proximity of these structures concretized the cognitive dissonance with which I was struggling.

On yet another level, I had long tried to address the Holocaust in my work, but jewelry was not the way. At the same time, as the work evolved, I realized that it also expressed all types of personal loss, abandonment, and even aging.

Installation

Edifice

Buildings that were included in the Edifice Exhibition at Snyderman/Works Gallery, Philadelphia, represent a second generation of dwellings that followed the original Houses and Barracks. On the same theme, the buildings are a bit lighter in spirit, with more color, and often lacking the pierced windows and doors which haunt the original ones.

Paper Bag Houses

This light-hearted group of smaller houses accompanies the other groupings, but without the devastating backstory. The vines and floral motifs take us into the land of the living. They are more purely about the joy of making: the embossed copper foil is folded over like a paper bag.

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