NEW YORK — Michael Morris, a curator at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, was trying to fulfill a run-of-the mill request when he uncovered a treasure trove of eyewitness depictions of the Holocaust, drawn in pencil, ink and crayon.
“It was a light bulb moment,” said Morris, who put together an exhibit of art created by some of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazi regime.
“Rendering Witness: Holocaust-Era Art as Testimony,” which opens this week at the lower Manhattan museum, comes at a time when U.S. anti-Semitic hate crimes have spiked and memories of the horrors of the Holocaust are fading.
“This exhibition stands against and educates about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry of any kind,” said Morris, describing the 21 powerful depictions of the Holocaust, mostly by Jewish prisoners.
It all started with another institution’s request to borrow some of the pieces in the museum’s collection. As Morris reviewed the dozens of works in its vaults, he knew immediately that it was high time for the museum to mount an exhibition of its own.
“Behind the statistics, and behind the numbers and behind the scenes where we see hundreds of thousands of people in concentration camps, these are actual people who had multi-faceted lives,” Morris said.
Among them was a 12-year-old girl, Helga Weissova, who brought art supplies with her when she was sent to Terezin Ghetto and concentration camp, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Prague in the Czech Republic, in October 1944. Before Weissova was deported from Terezin to Auschwitz, the infamous slave-labor camp in southern Poland, she gave her drawings to her uncle, a fellow prisoner who hid them behind a wall.
The show features her 1943 work in colored pencil on paper, “Transport Leaving Terezin,” which shows gun-toting guards ushering a huddled group of prisoners carrying suitcases.
Weissova is now in her 90s and living in Prague, but many of the artists never made it out of the deadly camps.
Peter Loewenstein of Czechoslovakia was deported in 1941 to Terezin. He gave the 70 drawings to his mother before he was then deported in 1944 to the notorious Auschwitz camp.
His mother and sister would soon be deported to Auschwitz as well, but not before turning over the art to a family friend.
His sister, the only family member who survived the camp, recovered the portfolio after the war, including “Eight Men in Coats with Stars,” a 1944 ink on paper depiction of Jews forced to wear identification badges.
Equally powerful is a watercolor by Marvin Halye, a member of the 104th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, who liberated Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany in 1945.
After seeing the few surviving prisoners tending to thousands of bodies, he rushed to paint “Liberation of Nordhausen, Civilians Covering Corpses.”
The show, which runs Jan. 16 through July 5, opens amid a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the United States and particularly in New York City, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
Anti-Jewish hate crimes in New York in 2019 were at a 28-year high, according to professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
In the most recent attack, a machete-wielding man wounded five people gathered last month for a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in the New York City suburb of Monsey.
Just weeks earlier, a shooting at a kosher supermarket in nearby Jersey City, New Jersey left two Hasidic Jews dead.
Hate crimes are escalating at a time when many American adults lack basic knowledge of the Holocaust.
The greatest gaps in understanding are among U.S. millennials – people in their 20s and 30s. Two-thirds of them do not know what Auschwitz is, said a recent survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
Art and grieving: Painter Barbara Pratt honours mother Mary Pratt's life in new exhibit – CBC.ca
There was no cake waiting for Barbara Pratt on her 56th birthday, something that until that point had been a tradition shared between her and her mother each year to mark the annual celebration of life.
The warmth and love was missing for the first time.
Renowned artist Mary Pratt — her mother — died at 83 in August 2018. Mary made a career of painting hyper-realistic everyday scenes — including of baking — that resonated across the country and sent her to the top of the Canadian art world.
Today, Barbara Pratt’s newest gallery, starting Saturday at the Emma Butler Gallery in St. John’s, pays homage to her late mother.
“I had an idea back in 2018 to paint a painting of the cake pans, that’s in this exhibition, and I wasn’t really thinking about it in a really significant kind of way,” Pratt told CBC Radio’s On The Go.
“But after my mother died, in that same year, the image became more poignant for me and I started thinking about other possibilities for images. When my birthday came I realized there wouldn’t be any birthday cake from my mom that year, for the first time ever, really, and that hit me pretty hard and fuelled my creativity.”
Pratt picked up painting from her parents. She also picked up baking from her mother, something she says is taken seriously in her family — particularly with birthdays.
“It struck me that baking, and baking birthday cakes in particular, is essentially an act of love that you do for somebody else,” said Pratt.
“I don’t take baking birthday cakes lightly. I’m not going to bake a birthday cake for just anybody.”
‘It’s just part of what we do’
Pratt said the idea to paint cakes was obvious to her after going through some old family slides, many of which featured cake.
She said everyone in the family was happy in those captured moments, but added cake itself plays a role in societal norms.
“Cake in general has a larger picture in our culture. We have cake with many of our rituals and celebrations. Retirement, graduations, weddings, obviously, and even at funerals you bring baked goods,” Pratt said.
“It’s just part of what we do, and that’s the way my mom approached art. It’s the way I approach it as well. It’s about representing what you know.”
Pratt’s new works feature actual cakes designed by Maria Clarke of Petite Sweet in St. John’s and some of her own.
Eighteen of her paintings will be hung on the walls of the gallery from Sept. 19 to Oct. 10, and the memory of her mother and the paying of her tribute goes one step further.
Many of the paintings were used using Mary Pratt’s brushes, and even some of her own canvases that she never had the opportunity to use, said Barbara Pratt.
“I feel lucky, in that I have sort have been with her during the whole duration of creating work for this show,” she said.
“There were days were days when it was very emotional for me, but uplifting at the same time.… I don’t know that it helped, but I did feel honoured by the ability to use her brushes, and her paint, and well an awful lot more of her supplies as well.”
Art exhibit captures memories of a changing landscape through COVID-19 pandemic – NiagaraFallsReview.ca
We began lockdown toward the end of winter; still cold, we stayed inside. As spring opened up to possibilities, many of us took to the outdoors, walking our only contact with the broader community, awkward though those encounters might be, hailing neighbours at a careful distance.
Alliston, Ont., artist Gary Evans has been creating throughout the pandemic; some of his paintings are now being shown in an exhibition titled “Daylight” at the Paul Petro gallery in Toronto.
He, too, experienced the strangeness of the world and the way he was moving in it, differently. “Avoiding the few people out there and really relishing the freshness of the air and changing conditions of the spring, the walks and sights of the town and surrounding landscape became the subject of paintings,” he says. “I found myself trying to express the different textures of the landscape, capture a mood and witness change on a daily basis.”
A fence. A tree changing shape and the changing light.
“Intersections of architecture and nature always seem to catch my eye, and the painting ‘Alley’ is based on the view of a neighbour’s fence that runs beside a parking lot and an arena building. The small maples that peek over the fence mark the space or distance between the viewer and architecture.”
“Often I will start to paint an actual image, then slowly add marks and imaginative or abstract patterns and colours to complete the image in a more expressive and personal manner. I’m trying to create a dialogue between our inner world of feeling and subjective reality and the generic landscape we inhabit together.”
And now, we enter fall. The days shorter, the air crisper, the shadows longer. We’ll observe more carefully, wanting to etch moments in our mind. Some we’ll want to remember clearly, some framed, perhaps, with simply a sense of colours and lines and feelings. Memories to sustain us through a long winter indoors.
You can see the entire exhibition at the Paul Petro Contemporary Art gallery at paulpetro.com.
10-year-old Anishinaabe photographer makes art show debut at skatepark exhibition – CBC.ca
Ella Greyeyes came across photography by accident, when she filled in for a photographer who was supposed to take her dad’s headshot, but cancelled at the last minute.
The 10-year-old was instantly hooked. She started snapping more pictures: some of her mom, others of nature scenes. Her parents posted them on Instagram and Ella soon drew the attention of local artist Annie Beach, who suggested Ella get involved with Lavender Menace, a mentorship opportunity that will culminate in an art show at The Plaza skatepark at The Forks.
“I’m feeling really excited and just happy that I’m going to have my photos at The Forks,” Ella told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show host Nadia Kidwai on Sunday. “When people see my photos, I hope they feel joy in them.”
For Ella, photography was a new way to see the world around her.
“When I see something, I just like to frame it,” she said. “And I love to take pictures of nature. It just feels so good and relaxing.”
The show organized by Graffiti Art Programming gets its name from a term rooted in the American lesbian women’s movement for inclusion within feminism, said Chanelle Lajoie, a Métis artist who mentored Ella ahead of Sunday night’s opening reception. Lajoie said Lavender Menace was a chance to create space for Indigenous people and learn from each other.
“Working with Ella provided for me that intergenerational knowledge-sharing, because it was very much reciprocated on both ends,” Lajoie said.
“Ella really enjoying taking photography of nature … seemed [to] really fit well with the project of providing natural elements to a predominantly concrete space, and so it was a really perfect fit.”
Ella — who is Anishinaabe from Peguis First Nation and lives in Winnipeg — said she learned so much about photography from Lajoie, from how to use the different settings on her camera to how to make a person comfortable in front of her lens.
“You have to be happy when you take them,” she said. “You have to take them with some joy, because then it will make the person, the model, feel really good and smile and not be grumpy in every photo.”
Lajoie said the show at The Forks is meant to start a conversation about representation of Indigenous, LGBT and two-spirit people in a space so deeply rooted in Indigenous histories.
“That conversation will include us. It’ll bring up some uncomfortable realities. [But] our representation is also going to encourage inclusion and build community further,” she said.
“So I hope anyone who is at the show, whether it’s tonight or in the future, if they’re having difficulty seeking out their queer selves or their Indigenous selves, that they see this and see themselves in us.”
The Lavender Menace group art exhibition launches Sunday at 5 p.m. The event will run until 7 p.m., though the art will stay until next year.
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