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Jewish Wisdom and Wellness: A Week of Learning » » Nancy Katz
  • NANCY KATZ

    Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
    www.nkatzart.com

    TURNING IT OVER: 
BUBBY & THE SEASONS

    I am a New Englander. In the early 80s I moved to California to explore & develop identities, one of which was that of an artist.

    During my journey, in an attempt to resolve what I called my ‘Bicoastal dilemma,’ I created a 3 color, 5 canvas acrylic painting as a way to work through feelings about moving from New England to California— leaving behind family & the beauty of the changing seasons

    The painting became a template for this patchwork quilt, which honors my relationship with my grandmother and acknowledges those changing seasons. Fabric, unlike the acrylic paint on canvas, offered a richness, texture, & opportunity for metaphor. My favorite is that the fabric used for our faces is ‘cut from the same cloth’—- just two different sides.

    For many years the quilt was a fixture on the wall on my Bubby’s wall in her nursing home room. It hung beside the family photos of young brides & multiple grandchildren. In 1989 my grandmother became ill requiring a hospital stay. It was apparent that she would not return to her nursing home room. Her belongings were removed to make way for a new resident.

    “What should we do with the quilt?” my parents asked me. From 3,000 miles away, I wasn’t sure— Donate it to the nursing home? Fold it up and put in a drawer? I really wasn’t sure what to do in the long run, but in the short term, I had a request.

    Knowing that I would not see my grandmother again, and that we should not share the warmth of each other’s touch, I asked my parents to bring the quilt to Bubby’s hospital room, and place it on her body for a short time.  For some reason, it was a difficult request to make, fearing that my parents would find it too ‘out there,’ but indeed my parents indulged me. I got to be with my Bubby through the quilt.

    Since my Bubby’s passing the quilt has hung on several walls— in my parents’ home, in my home— first in Santa Rosa, then two locations in Berkeley, & now, back in New England, this time in a home I share with my husband and dog.

    Using art as a form of healing has been an integral part of my adult life. In the 80s I worked on the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt as a volunteer and then as a staff member.  In the 90s I began to work with the Women’s Rabbinic Network.  In 1999 I designed silk painted healing scarves, which were created collaboratively and used by its members. I have since created the scarves with other groups including cancer centers and synagogues.