Friday, February 12, 2010

THE EVOLUTION OF INGLORIOUS ART



In 2007, I was determined to create the collection which is now Secondary Sources: Stone Narratives of the Holocaust. It was a concept, an idea that flourished inside me. I have so many concepts in my head for art collections that I could literally paint each second for the rest of my life and never exhaust the list.

I made a special trip to Paris from 2008 - 2009 to prepare this collection. My business partner was in the south of France and the next thing I knew I was on a plane. It was the very first time that I had ever left Paris on a visit to France. The city just sucks me in.

The snow was something terrible, but I'll take a terrible day in Paris over a good day in Bermuda any day of the week. My approach was not systematic. I had to take off my gloves in order to sketch. Then, I had to warm my freezing fingertips for a quick minute inside the safety of the gloves before returning to sketching.

I like to be in Paris during the winter because there are few tourists and I can roam about freely and have full access to the statues. Art creation is a very private and intimate process for me. I will close all doors, pull curtains, and draw blinds down in order to separate myself from everything outside my head, shutting off from everything in existence beyond me. So there I was in the Cimetiere Pere Lachaise with freezing fingertips and sketch pad in hand. I do not listen to music while walking about because I am trying to "feel" the stones and discern whether a particular tombstone or statue bears a message for me to deliver to the world.

The sketch on the left was created as I sat in the snow, before it began to rain. For me, this statue represented the children that were lost during the Holocaust. The body, in scale, felt innocent and ghostlike, and it was also, vast, and empty, and a gesture that echoed with questions. Upon my return from Paris in 2009, I painted the middle image; a sample for Patricia Guggenheim who will be modeling her hand in the final version. I never signed the painting depicted in the middle image which was an indication that while my mind said the painting was finished something within me said it was incomplete.

Eventually, I had a most delightful and brief life change and something inside me "clicked" and I knew what was to be corrected with this piece.

"It's all wrong." I told a loved one who phoned from Spain New Years' Day.

"What's wrong?" Was the reply.

Balancing the receiver on one shoulder I exclaimed, "Patty's painting."

I usually have a blueprint in my mind of what a work will look like. I store this image in my head and typically know exactly what I want and my job is truly to execute the schemes of my imagination.

"So, you want to know how I spent New Year's Eve? " I continued, "I revised Patricia's painting." My heart sank like a stone drifting to the bottom of a dark ocean floor. "I realized that if there was a war and I was torn from (my partner and) my child. The last thing I would be feeling would be all pastel colors and a silky smooth background!"

And so I conveyed the story of how I spent December 31, 2009, meditating and offering up thankful prayers for the inner and outer peace that is present in my life. I am ruled by a very deliberate passion and so, to the angst of many, I prefer to spend my birthday and my New Year's Eves painting. I am called to create and identify messages for society and therefore it is not work.

Many viewers do not realize that when they look at one of my painting they are simultaneously looking at chunks taken from a calendar, weeks that are given like an offering. It's like I have to give up my life in order to deliver life. And for such love I am a willing slave.

***

This painting was created to Leaving Paris by Craig Armstrong on Piano Works. I usually play music while I paint. (The same song on repeat until the piece is finished.) Something that punctuates the emotion of the work, but there was never a song created that could translate the darkness of the Holocaust to me. The hardest part of this collection is finding that there is no song or sound that can translate such darkness to me.

I thought about all of the millions of baby's hands that were let go of in the concentration camps. I thought about the worried mothers. I stood inside their stripped uniforms and shaved heads, and tried to interpret what it meant to be a Jew on that day. I asked, "How could a yellow star hurt so much?" So I painted the yellow star above the "child" because of what it meant to be Jewish in the 1940s. That is why there are heavy yellow strokes on the statue. It is also the reason my signature is yellow because I know what it means to be a Jew at any time.

Be You For You,








Keariene Muizz

Thursday, February 4, 2010

AN OPEN LETTER TO AUSCHWITZ SURVIVOR ELI TAUB


Dear Mr. Taub,

I know you are dead and this letter will never reach you. You passed away in the summer of 2006. Your daughter, Talia, my dear friend, was marked by your sudden absence.


I could not help but think of you as I roamed the tombstones of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery that winter. I was preparing my Sacred Stones Collection at the time, marking the end of my process with grief. You see, I began painting because someone stole the only baby photos I had when I was in high school and I had no way to show my unborn children and grandchildren what I looked like throughout my lifetime so I began documenting my emotional history for them. In telling this to Talia around 2003 she said, in her thick Israeli accent, "I know what you mean. My father survived the Auschwitz death camp. We lost everything in the Holocaust. My family has no pictures from before 1946. I know how much it hurts to not be able to see the past."

Talia and I held hands through what was the most tumultuous times of our lives, and now we walk beside one another with the inner peace and self-certainty that has been won in this newfound era of our existence.

I asked her about your tattoo number. I asked if she knew what it was. "He had one, but I don't remember what it was." I became a little obsessed with your tattoo number when I returned from Paris. We called Israel and asked your wife what your tattoo number was and she too could not recall it though she slept beside you faithfully for over forty years. It was like the horror of what the tattoo represented had been blocked from their minds, ignored, and thus erased from the caverns of time and history.

"My father," Talia declared one evening after we left schul, "has always had more integrity than any human being I have ever encountered in my entire life."

The horror and indignities you experienced and witnessed were not enough to overcome your humanity. And that is how YOU became the spark that has become the inspiration behind my newest collection Secondary Sources: Stone Narratives of the Holocaust. I knew that all around the world Survivors were dying, taking with them the extraordinary narratives of history. And such personal accounts, if left unrepeated, means that the Holocaust itself could also bear the threat of being erased from the archives of the future. The weight of this thought made my heart crumple like a bawled up sheet paper.

One day she told me your story. That you were a young man in Auschwitz and worked doing labor. That you hurt your knee from always kneeling on the ground and that the wear of your wound became so serious that you could barely walk. You could not work and had a fever. You became so sick and you knew the feeble ones were killed. So death became so real. You spoke to another worker, someone higher up. He had been a doctor before coming to the camp. You and this man were from the same country and had lived in nearby villages. Somehow, the doctor convinced the Nazis to let you rest for two days in the barracks. He said you would be valuable again after resting off the fever. And so you laid in bed knowing death was surely at hand if you did not recover. On the second day, as you tried to break the fever that was inside you, bombs were dropped and everyone that worked in the labor camp you were in was killed in the blast, including the man that saved you and the only reason you survived was because of your wounded knee.

You only told the story once to your children. You did not want to ever look back.

I want to thank you for having the strength to tell your story. And I pledge to remember you and tell your story so that your memory and legacy will live on.

It is not an easy thing to disallow the darkness of humanity from overthrowing one's spirit.

Thank you too, for creating and nurturing a life that has grown to become one of my best friends.

You are triumphant,




Keariene Muizz

Monday, February 1, 2010

NEW YORK ARTS MAGAZINE: STANDING THE TEST OF TIME (Nov / Dec 2008)


New York has embraced my work. One of the things I cherish about being an artist is seeing and hearing the way others reinterpret my work. This fact even goes out to the journalist who title the articles and retell my story. When I saw the headline given in the issue of NY Arts Magazine, "Standing the Test of Time," I thought to myself that there was no better description for what I achieved with the Sacred Stones Collection.

When I returned from Paris, I lived a house away from an artist. When Derek and I would discuss paintings or techniques I would often say, "I need to execute the colors in a way that they will be visible one hundred years from now with the same vibrancy of today." His reaction often was "Who cares about one hundred years from now!" (I do.) When I paint, I often think of my work in terms of outliving me. For me, the longevity of my art is something I always take into consideration, from the way the canvas was created all the way down to how it has been framed for viewing. The question of endurance never escapes me. This question had to occupy the minds of the masters that traded in days of their lives and hours of creative focus to produce something that unknown people occupying the unformed empires will someday be able to witness. They all had us in mind.

Each masterwork that I produce is the result of collective days spent in complete solitude and the experience of an inner revival. However, when I look at my collections I see the many weeks past, evaporated by the everlasting tic-tok of history's momentum and the moments I can never get back. It's like a visual diary of my emotional life. The title given by NY Arts was so fitting because I have withstood time and overcome the fluctuations of day to day life in order to consistently deliver a message that I know will be observed by a future that my eyes will not know. I am my own constant.

To thrive as an artist requires a unique strength that is only heard by those called to do it. Painting is a compulsion from a source that transcends me. No one will ever be aware of the costs made to so skillfully reconcile the world of my imagination with the outer world I live and breathe through. My life has been sacrificed for the sake of my passion. And my joyful hands are my willing tools.