An Israeli Artist Pays Tribute To Her Departed Mother In Law By Creating A Series Of Stunning Burial Monuments For Her Old Junk

Rachel Tauber combines the timelessness of Hebron marble with the fleetingness of the contents of her mother in law’s old sewing box to create a powerful commentary on life and death

I have a little shrine dedicated to my deceased parents in my house. It is not a Buddhist style shrine, of course. There are no pictures and I burn no incense. On the chest of drawers in our bedroom, there is a strange-looking bronze bowl that my mother had picked up God knows where or when and in it there are all kinds of odds and ends. Buttons, coins that have long since gone out of use, small rocks.

I can remember this bowl from my parents’ house. It had always been there ever since I can remember. In it, my mom would put things that she didn’t want to throw away, though she threw away pretty much everything. How that bowl never overflowed, I have no idea. When my parents died, tragically, in a mountain climbing accident, we had to settle their affairs. This bowl was one of the few things that we took with us. I never touch it, never add or subtract a thing, but it gives me comfort that it’s there, almost as if a piece of my mother’s soul resides somewhere in it among the 1960’s vintage Israeli Lira coins and small rocks from the Lower Galilee that my parents so adored.

I buried my parents under a huge slab of Galilee limestone. I thought they would feel at home inside that part of the Land of Israel, entombed in it, cradled by it. The rock slab is very heavy; only the Almighty Himself will be able to lift it up when He decides to resurrect the dead. In my mind, my parents live simultaneously there, in the Lower Galilee under their slab of limestone, and in my bedroom, in their little bronze bowl. I always thought I was alone in this. But it turns out that I am not.

Rachel Tauber, an Israeli sculptor, sculpts in Hebron marble, a rock whose creamy texture and appearance is not very different from that of its galilee cousin. Like its cousin, it is often used in burials. Having found an odds and ends box that belonged to her mother in law, Rachel decided to do with matter what I had done in spirit. She erected a series of monuments to her deceased relative that combined a lifetime of her collected “treasures” with pieces of tombstones uniquely designed to display their own little pieces of junk. Each one of Rachel’s sculptures is in and of itself a burial monument, a headstone, a grave marker.

There is not much humor in death, but there really should be and Rachel, in her three dimensional tribute to her mother in law’s useless trinkets, manages to find it. I, for one, would want those who survive me in this world to have a chuckle when they remember me. Rachel, in giving her mother in law’s junk a proper burial, honors her departed soul in that way. It’s a lark, a tongue in cheek, a wry smile. I obviously have no idea who Rachel’s mother in law was or the way she had about her when she trod upon this earth. But if Rachel’s tribute to her does her justice, I would have liked to meet her.

In the Jewish tradition, we do not carve images in the burial monuments. They serve only as backdrops to minimalistic information about the deceased. Names, dates.. Rachel, to my delight, adheres to this tradition. The marble is very lightly worked; only barely enough to correspond with the objects that it displays, the contents of the mother in law’s box of old junk, and through those contents, with her departed soul.

Rachel Tauber

Rachel’s touching tribute to her mother in law will be on display from February 13th through March 5th at the Misrad Gallery on 6 Zamenhoff Street, Tel-Aviv. For further details, please vsist the gallery website: www.officeintelavivgallery.com

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