Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Creating a Cohesive Whole

 I’ve been working on the series on Radom and am beginning to think about how to create a cohesive whole as well as sections that can stand as a group.   I’ve been using a limited palette of black, white, red iron oxide and phthalo blue although more brown tones are beginning to emerge as a mix of these colors .  Red iron oxide and phthalo blue are my favorite colors and form the backbone of virtually all of my paintings.

In this series the colors will unify the imagery, but I realized I also need to keep the size of the images relatively consistent as well.  That means that images like the bicyclist which are of a smaller scale will be eliminated and new images like the market will be added in their stead.  I also am thinking in thematic series within the broader series.  While colors may vary slightly between the images, the thematic series should be more unified by color. The water carrier and the market are a pair as are the two of the women in the cemetery.   I’ve begun to group these on my art website so I can begin to picture the larger piece. In my newly completed market scene you will notice that the water carrier who has his own painting appears in the background as well. 

I am drawing imagery from a 1937 film that offers very poor quality images. This is both challenging and beneficial as it forces me to interpret and reinvent imagery into something recognizable. Some images are truly compelling in their original form.  Others require consolidating multiple images to form a painting. Many of the images are of people looking at the camera and while this may not be the normal everyday scene, I like the idea of the townspeople engaging with the viewer.  I anticipate breaking it up a bit by including some imagery of buildings, but don't have nearly as much fun doing paintings of buildings so they may come at the end.

London Bound

Late in December I will be shipping off my Lithuania based artwork to the Woolfson and Tay gallery in London.  There it will be in an exhibition that will kick off with an opening event around Holocaust Day.  As I will be speaking at the opening, I’ve begun to put words to my work.  Artwork often begins in a less verbal place and words are a way not only to explain it to others, but to make sense of it to myself after the fact.

I have come to realize that my work is very much about testimony.  When I was in Lithuania our guides were those who experienced the Holocaust first-hand.  In telling others of what occurred they offered their testimony as evidence, proof of what they experienced and witnessed.  In telling their experience they verify the events that occurred in a country where denial and minimization of those events is all too frequent.  Those determined women who told us of their experiences are in their 80s.  When they are gone, the testimony that they so fervently offer will be gone also. History will be rewritten to a more palatable version. It is already occurring.

So what is my role, a mere observer 70 years later?  Perhaps I should say, “What is my responsibility?” because I feel that I have one.  At minimum it is to take what I’ve learned and observed and communicate it more broadly.  We all use the tools at our disposal and so my artwork becomes a kind of testimony, reflecting my response to information I’ve learned and observed.  My experience has been that imagery allows one to tell a story that stays with the viewer.  By linking it with an image there is a visual hook and thus artwork is a natural vehicle to preserve testimony. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Unusual Collaboration Unveils Lost Radom Tombstones

 When I visited my ancestral town of Radom, Poland, we had an opportunity to visit the Jewish cemetery.  Just a few tombstones remained intact with broken portions embedded in the wall that surrounds the cemetery.  The Germans had used many of the tombstones to build a runway and to pave a road to the airport. 

I recently learned an interesting story about the Radom cemetery and efforts throughout Poland to restore Jewish cemeteries. Prisoners from 50 Polish jails have volunteered to participate in a project to restore Jewish cemeteries.  When the Israeli Prison Service learned of these efforts they began a collaboration with their counterparts in Poland. Brian Anderson, a former Brit who retired to Israel, became aware of these efforts and raised the funds for this project to continue.  

Haim Kincler, head of the Israeli Radom Society, made a fascinating discovery on one of his visits to Radom.  A Polish tombstone maker had moved 70 of the most elaborate tombstones to safety hoping to sell them at a later time.  This plan was thwarted by the Communist regime which prohibited citizens from holding anything of historical value. Many years later the sons of the tombstone maker returned the tombstones to the city with the understanding that they would be showcased.  With the support of the Polish cemetery project, a monument was recently unveiled which incorporates the 70 tombstones.  Thus an important piece of history has been preserved.  I am making some inquiries to see if I can secure photos of these tombstones for use on the Radom Shtetlink as they may well represent family members of those who are researching family from Radom.  You can read more about this at Vos is Neias? (What’s News) along with pictures of the monument.