The Four Children
Mixed media (styrofoam, paper, lace, porcelain, brass and ancient shards), with Nancy Chinn, 1989
At the home of Shira Milgrom (the first of four children) and David Elcott in White Plains, New York
The piece recalls the Passover Seder where each of the four ‘sons’ responds differently to the requirements of the tradition. My work, The Four Children, takes into account the probability of mixed genders among the offspring. One daughter represents an earthy, vital approach. A dried etrog nestles in its soft bed of cotton wool. The etrog is the feminine element of the four species in the fall harvest festival of Succot. Its tip is called pitma, meaning nipple. The etrog/citron fruit does not rot, it dries like a fossil symbolic of another life); a second child is rebellious, (the broken shards of past and present); the third is loyal and devoted, (tallit ritual fringes show lace since women are also enjoined to wear tsitsit); the fourth child views the tradition through a thick glass calling forth constant critical reinterpretation. In a larger sense all four aspects are to be found in each of us as we pass through the portal called “the future.” The consciousness to integrate these disparate parts of us is conveyed by the serpent, catalyst of wisdom. The focus on passage and portal places this work in my Mezuzah series.
The Four Children is one of the first pieces I ever made, with the help of my mentor, Nancy Chinn. I remember how Nancy explained to me that the naked styrofoam had to be upholstered. It had to be "worked" to undergo change, in order to become art. She encouraged me to exhibit it in a new gallery that opened on College Avenue in Oakland. Shortly thereafter I began to bring my pieces out of the garage up into the house. It was not unlike coming out of the closet.