Artist Information for Harriet Cheney
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Kaharlyk58" x 27.5"   Photo by George Potanovic, Jr.
Kaharlyk is the name of the shtetl from which my grandparents emigrated to America. It is in the Ukraine, near the city of Kiev. I remember it because my grandparents socialized with the members of the "Kaharlyker Association." I always thought this had something to do with cars and liquor. I looked at a lot of Ukrainian folk art before making this piece. I loved the intimacy of the embroidery.
Orange Jacket40" 30"   Photo by George Potanovic, Jr.
"Orange Jacket" represents my connection to the garment industry. My grandfather manufactured hospital gowns, my father manufactured children's jackets, and my grandmother owned a dress store, which she ran until age 99. There was a true synergy (and symbiosis) between immigrants and the garment industry (especially in New York City.
Pogram58" x 27.5"   Photo by George Potanovic, Jr.
I remember my grandmother talking about “hiding in the fields from the Cossacks.” I wish I had asked her more questions. Maybe I did, and she chose not to answer.
Pogram is a Russian word; it means to demolish violently. During 1881-1884, anti-Jewish riots swept through Ukraine and southern Russia after Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.
During the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution, Red Army soldiers, Ukrainian nationalists, and Polish officials, often with police and government backing, raped, looted, and wreaked havoc, killing tens of thousands of Jews between 1918 and 1920. Of course, it didn’t end there.
I don’t know exactly when my grandparents left. I don’t know if they left because of hard and impoverished conditions, male conscription into the Russian army — for 25 years — or because of threats to their very lives. I do know they didn’t leave together.
My grandfather came first. He worked eight years to raise the passage money for Bluma and their two young sons. How did Bluma manage? I don’t know, except that she came by way of Cuba. There, the trail goes cold. Morris and Bluma reunited in Philadelphia. They had one more child, Thelma, my mom.
Bluma's Braid45" x 6"   Photo by George Potanovic, Jr.
I often slept over my grandma, Bluma's, house when I was very little. She kept an old blond braid tied with a pink ribbon in her drawer. I was always mystified by it. Here I recreated the braid out of yarn, wove it with ribbon and greenery, and assembled it in a box decoupaged with scenes from shtetl life in the Ukraine. The finials are meant to suggest a torah. The mourner's prayer (in Russian and Hebrew) is integrated in the piece.
Gone Green60" x 70.5   Photo by George Potanovic, Jr.
While a labor of love, this is an expression of outrage at man's hubris and greed. A statement of protest about the devastation of our magnificent planet, Gone Green is a swansong to the marvel of natural engineering and web of inventive connections that is our threatened environment.