Artist Statement—Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated
For the dead and the living, we must bear witness. Not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead, we are responsible for what we do with those memories. ~ Elie Weisel
Sometimes, an idea appears and the course of your life, and even your sense of purpose is altered. As a figurative narrative artist, I create stories in paint. In July 2018, as I pondered stories to tell, I became overwhelmed with the understanding of the millions who didn’t get to have a story; those whose dreams, hopes, and aspirations were horrifically eliminated in the Holocaust. I decided to concentrate on these unheard voices. Seeing racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and intolerance rise up in the world around us all, as I heard the voices of hate reverberating in the public square and watched bigotry rear its hideous head and march emboldened down our streets, I was reminded of a haunting warning from Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer: “The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t. What happened may happen again, to others not necessarily Jews, perpetrated by others, not necessarily Germans. We are all possible victims, possible perpetrators, possible bystanders.”
We have all seen tragic images of victims of the Holocaust, images that never cease to shock and horrify. Although we may be haunted by the cruelty with which so many lives were destroyed, how much do we actually know about the people whose time on earth was cut so terribly short? Is it possible that by only seeing images of their suffering we are protected from grasping just how much these people are like us? I became captivated by the remaining images of girls and young women murdered by the Nazis. The eyes in these often-unnamed faces are windows into lives that were not allowed to unfold. I contemplated their interrupted childhoods and young adult years and wondered about the stories, dreams, wishes, and life chapters torn away from these young people and felt compelled to imagine what their inner lives might have been like before they became engulfed by horror.
In creating paintings based on historic snapshots, my goal is to honor these lost lives. I hope to give back to these girls and young women something that was stolen; to remind the world that these young people once lived and loved and that they, like us, harbored dreams and hopes and secrets; that they had stories to tell. One can never know the exact dreams destroyed or hopes crushed; one cannot hear the inner narratives silenced or know how these girls might have lived out their precious lives, but in imagining what might have been, perhaps, in a small way, they can be brought back to life. Ultimately, these paintings aim to shine our light into the dark shadows of history, reminding us all that every taken life was far more than a statistic or a discarded photo. Depicting idyllic images of girls who were senselessly slaughtered is my act of creative resistance. Through these pieces, I am saying that we cannot ever forget the real girls who suffered nor can we stand by and allow history to repeat itself.