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,