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Hannah Samuels (b. 1908), Group, 1948-49; applewood, 13 1/4 x 8 x 6 1/4 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of the Artist in memory of her parents, Emil Samuels and Rachel Span Hannah Samuels, 1993

Hannah Samuels (b. 1908), Group, 1948-49; applewood, 13 1/4 x 8 x 6 1/4 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of the Artist in memory of her parents, Emil Samuels and Rachel Span Hannah Samuels, 1993

Whenever the Godfather opened his mouth, in my own mind I heard the voice of my mother. I heard her wisdom, her ruthlessness, and her unconquerable love for her family and for life itself.

It may like seem a strange juxtaposition, placing a Mario Puzo quote from The Fortunate Pilgrim next to this tender and intimate sculpture by Hannah Samuels—but profound connections exist.

To understand, I ask that you see this image of an immigrant family clutching to one another with both desperation and hope.

Then, suspend the colloquial meaning of the word ruthless, lack of ruth, without empathy, and replace it with fierceness, the fierceness of devoted parents protecting one’s own children.

Think about deep parental love, unassailable and unabashed, willing to face risk and uncertainty to secure a better life for their children.

Lastly, love of life, for if one did not truly love life, would there be a willingness to risk everything for it? I look at this work through the history of my grandparents, who arrived from Italy as teenagers to forge a new life.

I see it through the struggle those crossing our borders today, willing to challenge the wrath and might of the US government for love of family and love of life itself—to be human.

Mary Kozub,Education Program Manager