Birthrights Left Behind

Determined to create a permanent impression with her audiences, Washington, DC-area printmaker Pauline Jakobsberg uses her powerful prints – full of tenderness, caring and humanity balanced with pathos and grief – both as a legacy to her relatives’ experiences during the Holocaust and to remind all that the human impulse to remember our past cannot be fulfilled by giving universality to the individual history of specific people. 

Inspired by memory drawings, journal sketches, artifacts and family tales told by the Holocaust survivors of her husband's family, Jakobsberg has created art that leaves sweet, yet haunting memories, making her visions a reality. By incorporating images from photographs and other documents into her etched prints, she develops a story, reminding us of our inability to grasp our past completely.

Her legacy work is the subject of a new exhibit opening Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, and on view through June 14, 2015, in the Central Gallery at Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St. in Houston’s Museum District. HMH members are invited to a free preview reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. To renew a membership or to join and attend, visit www.hmh.org, e-mail membership@hmh.org or call 713-527-1640.

In “Birthrights Left Behind,” Jakobsberg poses the question: “Is it possible to shape the future through memories of the past?” “Birthrights” is a selection of Jakobsberg’s work consisting of 20 original hand-pulled prints using various printmaking techniques, ranging from engraving, etching, silkscreen and collagraph.

Jakobsberg dedicates the exhibition to her children and her late husband Wolfgang, who fled Nazi Germany at the age of six with his parents to Bolivia in 1939. Inspired by the stories of her husband’s family who suffered considerable loss at the hands of the Nazis, Jakobsberg has devoted much of her art to telling their stories. Many of the works address the Holocaust and the loss of birthright that accompanies the loss of one’s homeland. 

“I believe that creating images of people now gone or maybe never known, renews their lives and gives substance to their memory," she said. "The remarkable courage of those who fled Europe to pick up the pieces of their lives in a new and foreign environment filled me with admiration of Holocaust survivors, a desire to learn from them and a need to continue to know more about those who did not survive.”

Working in an environmentally safe studio, using acid free etching techniques, she etches, silk screens and employs chine collé on her handmade and Japanese paper, creating dense overlays of images that recreate the complexity of accumulated memories. Repetitive use of background drawings, metaphors of heavy block walls, old letters or photographs, and the repetition of images leave an impression filled with meaning - too difficult to forget. There is much pathos in a nine-frame print of a gentle face, “Birthrights Left Behind,” where a man’s eyes change from nonchalance to fear to the blank stare of someone refusing to see the chaos and despair. Echoes of shapes in “Changing Tides” represent the historical changes leading up to a dictator's rise, while "Earlier Stirrings" is the artist's rendition highlighting the Nazi boycott of Jewish-owned businesses.
Jakobsberg was raised in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan and schooled in a background in fine art, eventually majoring in printmaking.

October 31, 2014 — June 14, 2015

M: Closed
T-Sa: 10 am to 5 pm
Su: Noon to 5 pm

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