JENNY YURSHANSKY                                                                  






I took my mother, begrudgingly, to Moldova for her first trip back after my family fled as refugees from the Soviet Union. During this journey we made an unplanned detour to the cemetery where her grandfather is buried. Through a thicket of trees and undergrowth we came upon his gravestone, a 12-foot statue of a limbless tree—a symbol for a life cut short, this was the first time seeing it for both of us. The marker also memorializes nine other members of my family who were murdered during WWII. We came back one more time to make a rubbing of the headstone on dressmaker’s muslin, a throwaway material used for pattern making. The two of us have spent the last year embroidering over each indexical mark using a couture method on this humble surface. This action was done in honor of my grandmother, a couture seamstress, whose dreams were dashed by war. It was from her that we both learned to sew. The embroidery, now a ghostly shroud, is suspended mid-air, echoing the original form of the monument it once covered.

This piece is part of a body of work that comes out of a lifelong attempt at reckoning with what it means to be a refugee. So much of our history is carried with us and yet, those traumas are only known because they are what is avoided, forgotten, or suppressed. My mother will never directly answer my questions about the past. It took hours of sitting together through silences, sharing the frustrations and rewards of embroidering at this scale, for memories to bubble up and come to the surface. I have been creating a tender friction to release these lost narrative threads, a resistance to the desire to remain unknown.


A Legacy of Loss (Shroud)




Dressmaker's muslin, pearl embroidery thread, gravestone rubbing wax, steel, enamel


12 x 2.5 x 3.5 feet

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