Jewish Journal

Art Brings Life to Old Case Studies

by Naomi Pfefferman

January 15, 2004 | 7:00 pm

"Addressing Pain" Dominique Moody, Mixed Media; from "Still Listening: 150 Years of Jewish Family Service." Photo by Creative Ways

"Addressing Pain" Dominique Moody, Mixed Media; from "Still Listening: 150 Years of Jewish Family Service." Photo by Creative Ways

The eight stark photographs show scenes from a decaying mansion in West Adams, where a homeless parent and child "squat" amid dust and detritus. A microwave oven sits on a peeling bureau; a wall has crumbled between the toilet and living room.

The images -- featured in "Still Listening: 150 Years of Jewish Family Service" -- are photographer Albert Winn's present-day response to an old Jewish Family Service (JFS) case history. The 1934 report describes an impoverished family living in squalor behind a tin shop.

"It reminds us that while housing conditions were acute during the Depression, they remain acute for many families in Los Angeles today," co-curator Shari Davis said.

Three more original artworks, including paintings and mixed-media installations, are based on real JFS reports. In Dominique Moody's "Addressing Pain," a nude male silhouette looms amid maps, recalling a client who faced deportation in 1935. In Yolanda Gonzalez' "Seven Hours," an infertile woman clutches an empty sphere, symbolizing the void in her life.

In Michael Sakamoto's "The Sorrow of Mr. A.," fictitious artifacts describe a faux director; the character is based on a Russian filmmaker who would "accept no mediocre position, as a result of which [his family is] absolutely destitute," the 1927 report said. In Benny Ferdman's "Suit and Shoes for the Boy," an inverted figure represents a teenager, whose neglectful stepfather refused to buy him a graduation suit.

Davis and co-curator Ferdman commissioned the artwork to complement the documents featured in the Skirball Cultural Center exhibit. "We hope they will help make the [JFS] stories emotionally come alive for the viewer," Davis said.

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