Photographic installation, 66“ h x 78” w x 5” d, collaged imagery, inkjet print on archival paper, mylar, corplast, clear cling, magnets
Collaged photographs and drawings that mine childhood memories, reflecting the volatility of nature, community and identity.
With a Jewish father and an Anglo-Protestant mother, as a child, Lynne Heller, a multi- disciplinary artist, felt a sense of displacement in many settings. Raised in a distinctly gentile part of Toronto where her Jewish background set her apart, her experience of Jewish community was found at the summertime family retreat Camp Naivelt (Yiddish for “New World”). Located in Brampton, it was centred on secularist, progressive socialist values, activism, and a celebration of Jewish and Yiddish culture. At one time Naivelt was frequented by up to 5,000 people on any given weekend. While growing up, the artist experienced it as a place of sanctuary and freedom.
The installation references a poignant childhood memory. Visiting Naivelt in the spring off-season, Heller’s family came upon enormous ice floes ejected from the Credit River that runs through the camp. Unpeopled and distant from the bustle and heat of summer, the site was made stranger still by this dramatic scene. Heller’s father lifted her onto one ice mass, which was taller than her seven-year-old stature, and she observed debris and fish frozen within. From that vantage point, she looked back to the one-lane bridge, the only passageway over the river and into the property.
This eerie landscape and recollections frozen in time echo the dislocation of Heller’s upbringing. The massive ice blocks were both organic and oddly unnatural. Similarly, Heller felt both integrated into the Naivelt community during the 1960s and 70s yet often felt outside that milieu given her mixed heritage. And this haven of radical politics was in itself outside the norms of the Jewish mainstream. The ice-covered land evoked the gradual deterioration of the site that she witnessed alongside the dwindling of the community. Naivelt continues until today albeit with more modest participation.
In the exhibition, the terrain of memory interweaves with the textures of College Street as perennial graffiti markings on our window enter the piece, linking the past with present-day realities where the artist’s self-conception is firmly grounded. An image of the Naivelt bridge appears, signaling possibilities in connecting two seemingly distinct realms, holding out the potential for crossing into the promise of a new world.