Jenny Yurshansky’s Rinsing the Bones, curated by Karen Moss, explores how generational displacement passes the embodied trauma of dislocation onto future generations.
During the past two years, Yurshansky held a series of community-based workshops in the greater Los Angeles area for participants to tell their migration story, whether it be personal or ancestral. The resulting materials formed the foundation of the exhibition featuring all new works, including an installation scale quilt comprised of illustrated family narratives; audio testimonials in the form of playable, eroding, X-ray film records; bone-like 3D-printed sculptures of participant’s treasured handheld heirlooms; and photograms resembling airport X-rays. During the exhibition, the public is invited to share migration histories, excavate memories held in the body, and explore inter-generational trauma. Yurshansky provides opportunities for healing and empathy, creating a safe space for visitors to add their voices to the “unfolding narratives'' they may discover through this communal social fabric.
Born stateless to Soviet refugees, Yurshansky's personal experiences led her to research the shared pain, loss, and trauma of displaced persons. Rinsing the Bones examines the patterns of migration's repercussions and offers ways for people to translate that experience and connect themselves to that ordeal through the stories of their families. The artist focuses on the gaps resulting from displacement and the difficulty with the word "home" as an uncertain location outside the frame of nostalgia.
“Through my practice, I’m exploring the indelible impacts on generations whose history is one of being forcibly cast out. What are the long-term consequences felt by those who continue to live in places that forced "others" out? What are the voids left in the wake of these ruptures? How have the losses in cultural memory been manifested?” - Jenny Yurshansky
Yurshansky has invited The Running Stitch, a Los Angeles-based quilt collective to be guest artists in her exhibition. Jane Elfarra, Anjum Khan, Aida Osman, Ramza Saliefendic, Tahereh Sheerazie, Sobia Shehzad—six Muslim women from different countries—came together in 2001 for their love of quilting, sewing, crocheting and knitting. The “running stitch” is the signature on their quilts that they have sold to contribute to charitable projects around the world including supporting survivors of the earthquakes in Baam, Iran in 2003 and in Pakistan in 2005; Hurricane Katrina in 2006, and assistance to recent flood victims in Bangladesh. Yurshansky invited The Running Stitch to show their quilts with the aim to share with audiences the significant social impact of their quilting, to inspire others and to sell their work to help carry on their artistic and altruistic efforts.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Jenny Yurshansky received her MFA in Visual Art from UC Irvine (2010) and was a post-grad in Critical Studies at the Malmö Art Academy. Her solo exhibitions include: There Were No Roses There,” American Jewish University (2022), Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory, Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles (2020), Emerging Artist Series, Pitzer College Art Galleries (2015), and the Stockholm Royal Institute of Art (2015). Recent projects include: We are all guests here, a commission at Bridge Projects (2021), and a series of over 40 virtual workshops during COVID hosted on behalf of American Jewish University; Fulcrum Arts; the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster; Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and Pitzer College, among other institutions offering the public a way to maintain a sense of community, connect to social justice issues, and participate in somatic activities that focused on breath and landscape.
Yurshansky was awarded a Teacher Artist Fellowship by the Center for Craft in North Carolina (2023), and Pitzer College Art Galleries published her artist book, Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory (Recollections) (2018), with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Other honors include Maria Bonnier Dahlin’s Stipend from Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm (2010); Swedish Arts Grants Committee (2011-2017); HaMiffal Art Collective (2017), Yiddishkayt (2016), Asylum Arts (2015), the Stockholm Royal Institute of Art (2014), and Uppsala Municipality’s Artist Stipend (2013). From 2011-15 Yurshansky was co-founder and co-director of Persbo Studio, an artist residency, sculpture park, and creative space in Sweden.
Yurshansky received a City of Los Angeles Artist Fellowship from the Department of Cultural Affairs along with an exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (2019) and has participated in other group shows, including A NonHuman Horizon,” at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2019), the Mexicali Biennial (2018-19), Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm (2016), Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art (2012), the M HKA in Belgium (2011), as well as Laguna Beach Art Museum, MAK Center, LAXART and Torrance Art Museum and the Armory Center for the Arts (all in 2010), Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art in Malmö (2005), Hammer Museum (2003), 7th Istanbul Biennial (2001), and the Toyota Museum in Tokyo (2001).
Guest artist The Running Stitch, a Los Angeles-based quilt collective whose current members are Jane Elfarra, Anjum Khan, Aida Osman, Ramza Saliefendic, Tahereh Sheerazie and Sobia Shehzad, are six Muslim women from different countries who came together in 2001 for their love of quilting, sewing, crocheting and knitting.
The “running stitch” is the signature on their quilts that they have sold to contribute to charitable projects around the world, including supporting survivors of the earthquakes in Baam, Iran in 2003 and in Pakistan in 2005; Hurricane Katrina in 2006, and assistance to recent flood victims in Bangladesh. As a part of this exhibition, Yurshansky invited The Running Stitch to exhibit their quilts and share with audiences the significant social impact of their work, inspire others and sell these pieces to help them carry on their artistic and altruistic efforts.
Note from the Curator:
Today, stories of human displacement are ubiquitous, exacerbated by conditions such as climate change, increasing environmental disasters, political or sexual violence, transnational crises, and wars. People are forced to relocate to attain human rights or economic stability or to occupy a healthier or safer space, often to save their own life or the lives of their families. While global mass migration is overwhelming, every single individual has a uniquely personal narrative that must be heard, not only to remind us of how dire this issue has become but also so they can begin to heal from the trauma of their dislocation.
Jenny Yurshansky: Rinsing the Bones is a multi-layered, process-oriented, community-based project that explores the embodied, intergenerational trauma of dislocation and displacement. Born stateless to Soviet refugees, Yurshansky's own experiences led her to organize a year-long series of workshops in the greater Los Angeles area with 300-plus participants from diverse geographic locations. Participants worked with Yurshansky in different media to recount their migration stories through drawing illustrations, making hand-held paper sculptures, sewing quilts with their designs transferred onto fabric, recording their audio testimonials, and sharing their most meaningful family keepsakes.
Yurshansky’s collaborative process has culminated in the works in this exhibition that transfer, translate, and transform the original workshop materials to construct a new meaning or metaphor. The family migration stories sewn into quilts become Unfolding Narratives, a monumental-scale, möbius-shaped installation suspended in the main gallery that reveals cumulative and similar migration patterns. Recorded testimonials engraved onto X-ray film called Generation Loss overlay audible memories onto shadowy fragments of the human body, where we retain trauma. In the Soviet Union these bone records were a homespun recording method used to copy and share prohibited materials. While listening to these recordings, visitors may embroider the convoluted lines of Soviet sewing patterns transferred to linen in Wayfinding, an analogy to trying to locate oneself in a new country or foreign culture. Scans of participant’s treasured mementos are replicated in bone-like 3D printed sculptures in Rinsing the Bones (Reliquary), and installed in a mirrored, metal and glass vitrine, conveying how these archival models are but an ossified reflection of familial lineage and history. Photograms on fiber-based paper of the 3D scanned keepsakes, The Fugitive Archive, hang on the walls surrounding the vitrine. The title references not only how one is forced to flee a country but also the unstable, fleeting history inherent in an archive, while the fiber material connotes the fuzzy condition of our memories. A symbiotic relationship exists between the form, content, and titles of Yurshansky’s work to convey metaphors and construct particular meanings in this new context.
The title of this exhibition, Rinsing the Bones, is an expression that originates from an ancient Slavic reburial rite that involved exhuming the deceased and ritually cleansing the body in sacramental wine or water while recounting the totality of their actions, good and bad, when alive to ensure that only bones remained. The belief was that if decomposition was incomplete, an unrepentant sinner could become a ghoul or vampire. The family's duty was to ensure this horror did not happen by "rinsing the bones" to release their soul. As Yurshansky has noted:
"The phrase and custom deeply resonated with me because, without understanding who we are through the lens of our displacement, the generations of trauma we carry will haunt us. We are bound to live in reaction to these buried triggers without understanding their reasons unless we acknowledge the complexities and nuances of who we are through what our families have endured. As I have experienced in my family, these conversations are extremely difficult and sometimes require an outside catalyst of a trusted facilitator to break the silence. Through this project, I hope to do this for others."
A crucial aspect of Yurshansky’s process is how she orchestrates a multi-layered, intimate, dialogical, and participatory experience for her collaborators—she wants the opportunity to provide safe spaces for visitors to share histories, excavate memories, and explore intergenerational trauma. She strives to share, heal, empathize, and hopefully create deeper connections within the community and the diverse personal histories of migration.
Ultimately, Yurshansky’s Rinsing the Bones examines the patterns of migration's repercussions and offers ways for people to connect themselves to that ordeal by recounting family stories. Yurshansky focuses on the gaps resulting from displacement and the complexity of the word "home" as an uncertain, unstable space located outside the frame of nostalgia.
Jenny Yurshansky thanks the following partners, in-kind contributors and individuals:
Frida Cano, 18th Street Art Center Director of Artist Residency, who initiated this project.
The Running Stitch, exhibition guest artists and workshop partners, whose active members are Jane El Farra, Anjum Khan, Aida Osman, Ramza Saliefendic, Tahereh Sheerazie, and Sobia Shehzad.
This project and process could not have gotten to this stage without the incredible support of the Wende Museum and these additional funders and in-kind partners: Bemis Center for Contemporary Art; California State University Fullerton, Prototyping Lab; California State University Long Beach, 3D Design Lab; Crystal Forge; Center for Craft: Teaching Artist Cohort Fellowship; Meep Records; Metropolitan Community College; Pasadena Art Alliance; University of California, Irvine Studio Art Department; Heart of Los Angeles; Roski School of Art and Design, University of Southern California and Westridge School, Steamworks Lab.
The generous humans who have been involved in these institutional and personal contributions are Michael Balot-Garza, Adam Baumeister, Tanya Brodsky, Frida Cano, Manny De Santiago, Evelin Eigler, David Familian, Andy Fedak, Kenneth Heinze, Nara Hernandez, Abel Horwitz, Jesse C. Jackson, Linh Mac, Cara Megan Lewis, Henry Littleworth, Benjamin Lord, Mick Lorusso, Linh Mac, Marlenn Luna, Stefan Meyer, Rachel Adams Miller, Karen Moss, Alexandra Pacheco-Garcia, Charlie Pyott, Britt Ransom, Roy Regev, Rotem Rozental, Tanya Rubbak, Josh Schaedel, Vicki Phung Smith and Lorraine, Rima and Michael Yurshansky.
18th Street Arts Center recognizes and acknowledges the first people of the ancestral territory on which its two sites have been built. With respect to their elders, past and present, and future generations, we recognize the Gabrieleño Tongva – who are still here – and honor, with gratitude, the land itself and those who have stewarded it throughout the generations. We honor and respect the many indigenous peoples still connected to this land on which we gather, and we commit our work in service to and in alignment with these values. Please consider supporting the Gabrieleño Tongva at https://tongva.land/donate/
On View July 8 - November 30
18th Street Arts Center, Airport Campus
3026 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA
This exhibition is generously supported by LA Arts Recovery Fund, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, National Endowment for the Arts, Pasadena Arts Alliance, Perenchio Foundation, Santa Monica City Cultural Affairs, Warhol Foundation and 18th Street Arts Center's generous Board and donors.