The Legacy of Faygel and Yishiah

      Faygel and Yishiah were the original names of Frances (1905 - 1999) and Charles (1900-1988)  when they were young residents in the Pale, a large area of  Imperial Russia to which  the Czar restricted Jews.  Harsh conditions orphaned Faygel as a child.  She was taken in by an aunt and uncle, but when she was 16 years old the family was forced to flee the pogroms.  Faygel came to Detroit in 1922 where her older brother and sister had immigrated years earlier.  Yishiah, returning from the disintegrating army of the Czar, was pressed into the Red Army's service and briefly became a Bolshevik.  But in objecting to an instance of corruption, he found his life in jeopardy and fled to Detroit where his father, too, had immigrated.

Yishiah met Faygel at Detroit's Dwyer School where they both studied English at night.  Each had changed their given names to mark the beginning of life in the new world.  They married, worked hard and combined their small savings  to buy their own laundry. After three decades of owning several small businesses,  Charles became a real estate agent in the mid-1950s.  Frances worked by his side in their early laundry business then in their brief adventure as owners of a neighborhood candy store.  But mainly she was responsible for raising their daughter Ruth and sons Jack and Eugene.

Jim Pallas, the artist, was initially asked  to make an assemblage using some of the domestic remnants of Charles' and Frances' household, such as a well-used chest of drawers that had been made by Laib (Louis), Charles' carpenter father.   Some other items were an old family radio, a spoon, a meat grinder and the chair to which Frances clamped it when she used it, a pen, a spoon and an old coal shovel.  But Pallas learned there were several hours of audio tapes of Frances and Charles being interviewed by various family members  over a twenty-year period. In these tapes and in recordings of Passover seders and other gatherings, Frances and Charles tell their stories of life in Ukraine, their flight out and their experiences creating a new life in the "Goldene Medina."
    There also existed a cache of  photos of the family, even a few of Frances and Charles in Ukraine.  Pallas proposed that the assemblage be made electronically interactive, so that when a visitor touches certain of the artifacts, a selection from the audio material plays on the radio and is simultaneously illustrated by a sequence of pictures appearing on a computer screen embedded in a picture frame.  The idea was enthusiastically embraced.
     Click on the image above to play a movie  of one of the stories. (a 5 meg mpeg)

    The resulting sculpture  contains almost seventy audio files and hundreds of photos.  Six objects trigger their playing and represent categories for the stories.  For instance, a visitor's finger touching the silver spoon triggers a story about family, chosen at random  by the computer program specially written by engineer Jim Zalewski.  Touching the pen elicits a story about education or creativity.  Touch the Star of David on the Hebrew prayer book and experience a story about Judaism.  The  rubber stamp, bell and  ruble coins  call forth  sound and images relating to  government, community, and family finances, respectively. 
Flaws on the chair have been repaired with gold leaf.  The  drawers contains sentimental materials, documents, letters, and a few domestic implements.   Pallas enjoyed the opportunity to design a rubber stamp, "Stamp for the Pale", that expresses some issues regarding  the struggle against adversity.

The Rubber Stamp
"Da/Nyet" (Yes/No) circumscribed by three yiddish sayings: "If you can't go over, go under.", "If you must, you can." and " Nerve prevails"
Pallas logo (to home page)

     Some  have pointed to Pallas' "LAW" (1994) sculpture as a precursor to "The Legacy of Faygel and Yishiah".