A few months ago, I immersed myself in a meditative project at the White Stork Synagogue, the only surviving synagogue in Wroclaw since the Holocaust in Poland. The non-profit organization, Handshouse Studio, had a “Learn by Doing” approach, which inspired individuals and students of various disciplines to participate in its programs and learn about the process of restoring historical, unique structures. This past summer offered me a special opportunity to work with Handshouse Studio on the Gwozdziec Synagogue Replication Project.
After a series of sunrise-til-sundown periods of following the routine listed below, our team completed the roof’s mural.
- Mixing paint and gesso from raw materials
- Preparing test panels
- Scrutinizing 17th century artists’ styles
- Applying finished pigments onto wooden boards
- Complying to the strict guidelines of restoring historical art
The cupola (80% to scale) will be part of the permanent core installation at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN), on the site of the Warsaw ghetto. According to Handshouse Studio, this project took “nearly 10 years of work: 8 years of research and 2 years of workshops, over 300 people, more than 400 pieces of the roof structure made out of 200 logs of wood, 29 sections forming the roof, 13 forming the lantern, 67 paintings of mythical animals, 1000 of flowers, bunches of grapes and buds”.
Thanks to the Handshouse Studio staff and supporters for helping to increase awareness of symbolism in art. This mission allows for the progressive understanding of our history.
My Challenge in the Work Behind This Project
In order to replicate the artists’ skills from centuries ago, I first needed to set aside my own artistic style. Methodically, I applied the same paint strokes daily, so the images would match the historical archives. This was how the intricate murals of the Gwozdziec synagogue could retain its symbolic legacy.
I could not apply any additional forms of creativity in this project as long as I stuck by the protocol. I suppose this was how mistakes would be minimized, while maximizing the output. Being docile and maintaining Handshouse studio’s work ethic was the way to efficiently master this art of restoration. Turning away from novelty was essential to rebuilding the Gwozdziec synagogue.