This article was written by Museums Alaska member Leslie Fried, who is the Curator at the Alaska Jewish Museum.
I recently had the opportunity to take a trip back to the East Coast where I grew up. It turned out to be a time not only for visiting relatives, but also some of those places that were important influences on me as a child and young adult.
I went to Jones Beach and Tobay Beach on Long Island where I spent long summer days swimming and collecting shells. I also visited my 101- year-old Aunt Mildred in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn where I honed my curatorial skills by recording family stories on my Tascam DR-100 digital recorder, a device similar to the one I use at the Alaska Jewish Museum for doing oral histories. It is easy to operate and very unobtrusive. Needless-to-say, some of my aunt’s memories were a revelation!
Sharing stories was a common thread on this trip as I got together with a high school friend from Frankfurt, Germany that I hadn’t seen in 53 years. We spent quite a bit of time in Manhattan exploring the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Metropolitan Museum. She found it fun that her best friend from 10th grade could quite easily guide her through the paintings, drawings and prints with ease, familiarity and back stories. Shamelessly, I basked in the glory!
Every year or so I revisit certain art pieces that have influenced me throughout my life, and this time was no different. I made a pilgrimage to Giacometti’s “Palace at 4 A.M.,” an assemblage at MOMA that I have found evocative since my teenage years (above). At the Met, I visited some of my favorite Greek figurines in the Greek and Roman galleries (below). These tiny sculptures influenced me greatly during my years as a decorative painter and plasterer in Seattle.
My trip ended in Philadelphia where I visited the National Museum of American Jewish History where my sister Susan and I were treated to a private tour with the Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, Josh Perelman, on the same day that the exhibit, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginzburg, was being taken down. The Museum’s core exhibit, Dreams of Freedom, that chronicles the Jewish experience in America dating back to the 1500’s was wonderfully curated but made no mention of the Jewish experience in Alaska. I therefore decided upon my return to Anchorage that I would contact Mr. Perelman about doing a presentation in Philly next winter when I visit again. A traveling exhibit is also a possibility.
Image 1: Palace at 4 a.m. by Alberto Giacometti. (Swiss, 1901–1966) 1932. Wood, glass, wire, and string, 25 x 28 1/4 x 15 3/4" (63.5 x 71.8 x 40 cm)
Image 2: Greek Terracotta Figurines, 3rd to 4th Century B.C