Paint What You Remember


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Mayer Kirshenblatt is a self-taught artist living and working in Toronto. Born in Apt (Opatów in Polish) in 1916, he arrived in Canada in 1934 at the age of seventeen. After apprenticing to an electrician and cobbler in Poland and working in a sweatshop in Toronto, he painted houses and eventually opened his own wallpaper and paint store. He retired in 1977.

In 1990, Mayer began to paint everything he could remember about his hometown and his childhood there. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, his daughter, began interviewing him in 1967 and has continued to do so until the present. She is University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. 

In this exhibition you will be able to see forty of Mayer's works, as well as read, see and hear him talk about Jewish life in his hometown of Apt (Opatów).




Instructions for optimal viewing: You can view this exhibition in either of two ways. You may choose to left-click on any of the thumbnail photographs below to see the larger representation of each selected image, along with the title and description of each piece, or you can may proceed from one painting to the next by simply left-clicking on the "next ►►" found at the bottom right of each page.

This exhibition also contains a good number of short audio and video clips. When audio is available, you will see a earphones icon at the end of the text. Simply click on the words "Listen to it" and the sound will begin to play.  The videos will begin only when you click on the arrow. The exhibition ends at the "daughter's afterword."

Boy with herring.   Nakhete.   The water carrier.   Stealing the laundry.
The Christian maid Jadwiga.   The chimney sweep.   The ship's office.   The human fly.
Placing kvitlekh on the tomb of Reb Mayerl.   Synagogue.   Butcher leading calf.   Goose feather pluckers.
Father leaves in secret.   Livestock market.   Market Day in Opatów.   Troysters: Upholsters and saddlers.
Yarmi's "hotel".   Leaving Apt (Opatów).   Carp ponds.   Shaving the corpse.
Shulklaper.   The Black Wedding.   Kitchen.   Mikve.
The hunchback's wedding.   Holy Cross.   Mezhebezher rebe.   Shakhres: Morning Prayers in Lower Besmedresh.
The kleptomaniac.   The Murder.   The Adulterer.   Bashe Rayzl: Apter "aristocracy".
Boy in the white pajamas.   The pisher.   Maylekh inflating cow bladders.   Mother in childbed.
Circus.   The brush factory.   Escorting the groom to the wedding.   Slaughter of the Innocents.
Courtesy Mayer Kirshenblatt and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust (University of California Press and Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2007).

To see a related exhibition of Mayer's works about Shabbat and the Jewish holidays in Opatów, please click here.

Soon you will be able to see a trailer of the film about Mayer's work entitled "Paint What You Remember." Please revisit this page in the near future for an announcement.


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