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  • Writer's pictureEllen Schechner-Johnson

New Book for 2023: Paper Bridge

Some thoughts from artist Ellen Schechner-Johnson on the new Brighton Press book that she and Michele Burgess designed collaboratively.

"Paper is both the principal art material that I work with and intriguing to me as a symbol.

I was reading about the uses of paper in various spiritual practices, and I saw the words “the paper bridge.” For many years I researched this image.

Kadya Molodowsky

It led me to a book called Paper Bridges, a book of Yiddish poetry by Kadya Molodowsky. She wrote about her memories of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, which she left in 1935, and her transition to life in New York City, where she was deeply involved in the Yiddish literary society of that time.

This literary group used the image of the paper bridge to keep connection to the culture of their past that they had had to leave in Europe before and during World War II, preserved by stories, captured on paper—the life of a disappearing culture.

This new learning brought to my mind the historic liminality of Jewish existence. The image of the wandering Jew, the subjects of displacement, homelessness, and disconnection—of belonging and not belonging.

Paper and language became a direction for my work on a series of painted and collaged books—books about lostness, about searching for home.

This present book, thanks to Michele Burgess and Brighton Press, is a continuation of this topic.

The bridge—as transition—needed a book with an extended, horizontal form.

Of pages—some folded—to reveal and conceal.

Scratching out, covering over, was the process.

Pages of traces, of absence."

—Ellen Schechner-Johnson, 2023

Ellen Schechner-Johnson researching at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts

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