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Miriam’s journey sampler


1996

COLLECTION OF THE MUSEUM OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE, NEW YORK

This is a response to an invitation to participate in “Miriam’s Cups”, an exhibition organized by Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project and held at Hebrew Union College. Miriam’s Cup is a water vessel placed on the seder table reminding us of the role of women in the Exodus and specifically of Miriam’s importance as a source of sustenance and spirit.

I imagined that during 40 years of wandering Miriam must have made many pots of soothing herbal tea while she contemplated her life’s journey. The metal camping teapot is blasted by the desert sands to reveal symbolic messages, including the moon’s phases and African pictographs of water and matriarchy.

The five-yard-long linen tea-towel is embellished (at a rate of about three letters per hour) with cross-stitch embroidery. It begins as a traditional sampler with the alphabet and the stitcher’s name; Miriam is referred to by 9 names in Torah.  It then evolves into a journey diary from many times and places. Some days Miriam quotes from literature: “If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t get married.” (Anton Chekhov) Some days she builds on midrash: “Today the manna tastes like chocolate.”  At the end of her life the stitching trails off and the needle and thread dangle.  She has just embroidered, “I am not what happened to me. I am not my roles. I am my journey.”

⊕ Mixed media

⊗ Embroidered, sandblasted

Teapot:

↔ 10 cm / 4″

⊥ 25 cm / 10″

⌊ 10 cm / 4″

Tea towel:

↔ 50 cm / 20″

⊥ 457 cm / 180″

↑ Photo: Paul Petroff