Meet a Museum Blogger

Meet a Museum Blogger: Elizabeth Rynecki

Elizabeth Rynecki is Moshe Rynecki’s great-granddaughter. She has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College (’91) and an MA in Rhetoric and Speech Communication from UC Davis (’94). Her Master’s thesis focused on children of Holocaust survivors. Elizabeth is passionate about sharing her great-grandfather’s paintings with others. To this end she is working on the Chasing Portraits documentary film project as well as a book about her family’s efforts to preserve her great-grandfather’s story and oeuvre of work.

Do you work in a museum? If not, where do you work? Tell us about your job.

Such a straightforward question and such a complicated reply…! I do not work in a museum, but I work with art, specifically with the work of my great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki. My work is really more of a hobby and obsession. I am not paid for the time I spend on the project.

What’s your educational background?

I have a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College. I have a MA in Rhetoric and Speech Communication from UC Davis.

What’s the name of your blog? How long have you been blogging?

Elizabeth’s Blog: A Great-Granddaughter’s Legacy: www.rynecki.org/blog

I’ve been blogging since March 2012.

What do you blog about? Why?

My great-grandfather was a Warsaw based artist who painted scenes of the Polish Jewish community in the interwar years. A visual narrator with a keen eye for exploring and documenting the daily rhythm of life, his work depicts artisans and laborers, study and worship in the Synagogue, and moments of leisure. When Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, Moshe became concerned about preserving his life’s work, dividing his oeuvre of approximately 800 works into bundles and hiding them in and around Warsaw. He gave lists of the caches’ locations to his wife, son, and daughter in hopes that the family would ultimately retrieve the bundles and reassemble the collection. Unfortunately, Moshe perished in Majdanek, and after the war Moshe’s widow was only able to recover approximately 100 paintings in the cellar of a home in Warsaw’s Praga district.

For many years my family believed that only these pieces survived the war. But in fact many more pieces survived; I have located dozens of previously “lost” works over the last decade.

I blog about my great-grandfather’s art, my quest for the lost and missing pieces, Jewish art history, the 2nd generation legacy (children of Holocaust survivors), my documentary film project, my book project, and speaking engagements.

Krasinski Park by Moshe Rynecki, 1930. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Rynecki.

What was your ‘sticky’ moment?

I grew up with many of my great-grandfather’s paintings hanging on the walls of my parents’ and grandparents’ home. When friends would come over they’d remark that my home felt an awful lot like a museum. My “sticky” moment came when my grandpa George died in 1992 and we found in the trunk of his car a memoir he’d written about how he survived the Holocaust. In one chapter he said, “There are hundreds of books on the subject [the Holocaust]. Nevertheless, I am a Jew and I write. If only for my granddaughter, Elizabeth, to know the truth, and not to be afraid of it. It’s funny how we are not afraid to tell the truth.”  I’m not a Holocaust survivor, so I can’t bear witness, but I knew I could share my great-grandfather’s art with others.

Bride and Self-Portrait, 1918

Bride and Self-Portrait by Moshe Rynecki, 1918. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Rynecki.

What’s the nicest/meanest/craziest comment you’ve ever received?

I shut off the comments on my blog because I was getting way too much completely bizarre spam.  I’ve gotten many amazingly kind and sweet comments via Twitter. My favorites are the ones where people fall in love with Moshe’s art and say encouraging things about my project.

What’s the last exhibit you saw?

I took my kids to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

What’s the last thing you bought at a museum gift shop?

Notecards.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

It’s less about where I see myself, and more where I see the project. I hope the documentary film is complete, the book is published, and my great-grandfather’s art is known to a wider audience.

Do you tweet? Why or why not?

Yes, I do tweet! You can find me at @erynecki. I love Twitter because it has opened an enormous number of doors for the #mrynecki project. I’ve connected with journalists, art historians, curators, Holocaust museums, Jewish art museums, educators, WW2 historians, provenance researchers, art attorneys, and those who just love to look at my great-grandfather’s art. Because my museum is a virtual one, and there are few brick and mortar museums that display my great-grandfather’s work, it’s a fabulous way to share the art and to keep the story relevant.

Thanks for participating in Meet a Museum Blogger, Elizabeth!

In case you missed it, Elizabeth blogs at Elizabeth’s Blog: A Great-Granddaughter’s Legacy.

Do you have additional questions for Elizabeth regarding her profile above? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments below or reach out to her directly on Twitter at @eryneckiPlease use the #MuseumBlogger hashtag. TY!

Are you interested in being profiled or know someone who would be? Send an email to MuseumMinute@gmail.com.

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