Frances Jetter's Amalgam is an illustrated history of the life and times of her immigrant labor unionist grandfather who left Poland in 1911 when it was still part of the Russian Empire. Although the Russian Army no longer conscripted twelve-year-old Jewish children to serve thirty-one year-long tours of duty, her grandfather chose to evade their draft. After finding work as a pocket maker in a New York garment factory, he became a foot soldier in America's army of labor, and spent his life fighting for a living wage.
Amalgam focuses on his dual roles as a union member advocating for democracy in the workplace, and as a dictatorial patriarch of his Brooklyn family, waging a war against frivolity and toys. This powerful illustrated book contrasts old world ways with the desire to assimilate, and follows the family and the union through the Great Depression and World War II to the 1960s, and the union's decline. The artist's sequential narrative is cut from linoleum, with some imagery featuring complex chine collé additions from lithographic or digital prints.
From the exhibition Finding Home: Four Artists' Journeys on view November 9, 2019 through May 25, 2020 at Norman Rockwell Museum.