Lydia Kann Nettler’s forests of paper tell stories

Her latest installation integrates her mothers WWII experience with her own

'Embedded Legacies,' 2012, charcoal, paper mache and prose on paper

Western Massachusetts-based artist and writer Lydia Kann Nettler creates environments made of paper and paper products. Her site-specific installations of sculptural and charcoal-drawn forest scenes include collaged prose that explores the impact of being the child of a Holocaust survivor, single parenthood, mental illness, and poverty. 

Nettler’s latest installation, “Embedded Legacies,” which opens Oct 1 in the Kniznick Gallery of the Women’s Studies Research Center, concerns itself with integration and transformation, integrating the story of her mother’s experience during World War II into the daughter’s present identity.

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4.

While at an artist residency in France this past spring, Nettler did substantial research into one of the mysteries of her heritage, asking “where was my mother during the War and how did she survive?”  Nettler says that “while she uncovered some information, she is still engaged in the search and in making sense out of the story.”

Nettler's black-and-white installations—moving from representational to abstract, from two dimensions to three—surround the viewer, creating a haunting and mysterious environment that speaks to the experience of a first-generation American woman struggling to find her identity. Tree to paper to story is a natural progression which comes full circle as Nettler's stories are grafted back onto her paper trees.

Nettler has exhibited her installations widely in New England and has created several public art projects. She also writes fiction under the name Lydia Kann and works as a therapist. She holds a B.A. from the University of California Los Angeles and an M.S.W. from the University of Connecticut and has studied art at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The installation, which is free and open to the public, will remain in the gallery through Dec. 18. Gallery hours are  Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

The exhibition was made possible by support from the Natalie Marcus Endowment for the Arts.

About the Women’s Studies Research Center

The Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) is a place where research, art and activism converge. Bringing together scholars, students and artists, the WSRC is a community that thrives on the sharing of knowledge and ideas. The WSRC is home to the Kniznick Gallery, which is committed to feminist exhibitions of artistic excellence that reflect the activities of the Women’s Studies Research Center Scholars and engage communities within and beyond Brandeis University.

The center and the gallery are located at 515 South St., across from Brandeis/Roberts commuter rail stop. For more information, phone (781) 736-8102 or email

Categories: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

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