Shuli Bornstein Wolf
Towers in the Sky, 2019-2020
Shuli Bornstein Wolf was born in São Paolo to an orthodox Jewish family. The story of her family’s wanderings is similar to that of many other Jewish families during the first half of the twentieth century in Europe. Her maternal grandfather was born in Germany to a secular family but later became orthodox. Following Kristallnacht, the grandfather managed to obtain three visas to Brazil ̶ for himself, his wife and their 8-year-old son, while their 3 older daughters, including Wolf’s mother, were sent to London. The family was reunited only after the end of the War.
Shuli tells of how, as a small child, her mother would tell her about Kristallnacht ̶ and Shuli imagined a sparkling, spectacular event, envisioning the large crystal chandelier that hung in their dining room. When she was a little older and understood the true meaning of the events of that night, she recoiled from anything related to that material ̶ crystal. Her mother’s stories of Kristallnacht, says Shuli, were eventually transformed into an obsession for crystal. She collects the glass items in markets in Israel and around the world, while some she purchases from private collectors.
“Occasionally, glass items would shatter in my hands, One day, while I was washing up some glass dishes, I recalled my late mother and the stories she had told me when I was a child of her memories as a young girl during the Kristallnacht riots. My mother, who was born in Mönchengladbach in Germany, had, as a young girl, experienced the night when the Gestapo smashed and burnt all the synagogues in the country. That night she and her family hid in the home of Christian friends, and the next morning when they returned home, they found that all their windows had been smashed.
“In Towers in the Sky I decided to commemorate the personal story of my mother and the collective story of the Jewish People. It became a challenge: ‘Look what I can do with something that has almost been destroyed inside me’. Even though my works may appear very optimistic, there is pain in that creation … Perhaps it is precisely because of this that I discovered within me a strong desire to make the world more beautiful.
“And so I link together the thousands of items of colored glass and crystal, some of which were made in countries where millions of Jews were murdered by that inconceivable evil, and symbolically ̶ the creative process, the color and the joy that my works arouse, bear witness to and reinforce the revival of the Jewish People after the Holocaust.”
Bornstein-Wolf creates totem poles from various pieces of glass and crystal that she collects and joins together. Crystal ornaments, lampshades, plates, vases and other glass objects are piled up into forms that bring to mind beautiful items of Judaica. Her “Candlesticks” assimilate the fragility of the glass from which they are made while at the same time they embrace the great power of beauty, fusion and revival.
Yuval Keshet, Curator