Where was this journey going—right into my heart… as I looked below the surface:
So in friendship, France gifted us this beacon of freedom to honor America’s commitment to abolition following the Civil War. She is the embodiment of Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.
By 1886, this copper beauty found her home in New York Harbor.
I imagined my grandfather arriving at Ellis Island in 1907 and catching his first glimpse of America as he set his gaze upon HER.
At 13, he walked from Poland to Paris to escape persecution and several years later sailed from Paris to NYC, alone--armed with only courage, hope and the promise that America offered.
As I thought more about this scene, it hit me hard. Had this free nation not embraced my grandfather, in his poverty and his dreams—I would not be painting this artwork. I would not be taking this breath.
He would have perished in the wake of the Holocaust along with his family that were rounded up and shot in their village by the Nazis.
So gratitude came up in me. That our nation stood by, open armed to take in those needing shelter, wishing to join the community of freedom that built America.
That we did not turn our backs on the suffering…
I got lost in Emma Lazarus’ poem, "The New Colossus” inscribed at the foundation of Lady Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
And from there, I painted layers upon layers. I hid old war stamps and freedom stamps, a small stamp of the statue, a city map of the original DC layout, papers, fabrics, copper paint in homage to the original copper statue, verdigris, clippings from a war bond book, pages from old Czech fairy tales, pencils, pastels, sewing patterns--tight complexity to build a strong foundation.
Lest we not forget, most of us came from more oppressed beginnings…may we not become the oppressor as we enjoy our freedoms. In thought for where we head as a nation of freedom loving immigrants. And of people looking for a good life filled with love and family.
Here’s to gratitude for each breath and making choices to embrace the differences and beauty in those we meet today.