Unidentified ancestors transformed into art in Slifka exhibit

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“Relative Unknowns,” an exhibition of small cut paper collages on vintage family photographs by Danielle Durchslag, is on view through Oct. 2 in the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery at Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall St.

Durchslag excavates old photographs of her ancestors from her family’s basements and attics, individuals whose specific identities and names have been lost to time. “Her portraits tell the fading story of a specific Jewish American history and honor forgotten family members. The resulting portraits serve as stand-ins for the millions lost to their descendents,” note the exhibit organizers.

Durchslag searches out original photographs of nameless loved ones and re-creates them detail for detail using simple materials - paper, tape and glue. She preserves the frame, display board, manufacturer’s signature, watermark and deckled edges of each photograph, memorializing these original markings and materials as an integral part of the picture’s provenance.

From a distance, the portraits appear to be paintings, but are in fact constructed from hundreds of layers of paper. The works’ pictorial coherence is achieved through a layering technique similar to under painting, whereby the artist begins with broad layers of neutral grays and adds lighter details of earth tones and whites to illuminate and define focal points.

Durchslag is an arts educator who works with underserved youth in New York City. She has exhibited throughout the United States, including shows at Bridge Art Fair in Miami, ARWI International Art Fair in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Curatorial Research Lab at Winkleman Gallery in New York.

Durchslag is the Shabbaton Artist in Residence at Slifka Center, which is hosting a series of events that will take place throughout the exhibition. These include:

Artist reception: Thursday, Sept. 15, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Shabbat luncheon conversation, “Memory, Art and Identity”: Friday, Sept. 16, 12 noon-2 p.m.
“Make Your Own Relative Unknown” collage workshop: Sunday, Sept. 18, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Participants will learn and use the artist’s paper layering technique to honor ancestors both forgotten and remembered. Each participant must arrive with a photograph of an ancestor they wish to laud through the creation of a paper artwork. Open to anyone interested regardless of artistic background and confidence. Materials will be provided.
Hours for the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

This exhibition and residency are made possible through the support of Barbara Slifka.

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