Date: Tuesday, March 3, 1998 6:01:06
Subj: request for a response
Dear Mr. David Aronson,
My name is Jerry Keuhn and I am in a composition class at Missouri Western College in St. Joseph, MO. Would it be possible for you to answer a few questions? I'm sure you are a busy man, but I would appreciate any help you could give me.
We are currently discussing an essay by John Berger entitled "Ways of Seeing", and as part of our response to his essay we are to look at a picture and tell how it conforms to Berger's statements. In his essay he states that "the way we view art is affected by what we see and what we know." He also states that "If we 'saw' the art of the past, we would situate ourselves in history. When we are prevented from seeing it, we are being deprived of the history which belongs to us." I believe that Holocaust art is a good example of this. Because of the graphic nature, some people will not look, and are deprived of history.
Just a couple of brief questions, if you could find time to answer.
1. On the web site, there is no background information on you or the paintings. What is your direct connection to the Holocaust? The paintings struck an emotional chord with me. What were some of the emotions you had when doing these paintings? When were they painted, etc. Where do you live? Do you do all types of art, and where can I find some of your work? Is some available in a book?
2. I am not Jewish and live in a place and time far removed from the concentration camps. Do you feel that your paintings will help people to "situate themselves in history?" If we ask the right questions of the past, are we capable of gaining a better understanding of our present?
3. Do you feel that because art is reproduced so frequently today that part of the original meaning is lost and therefore not as valuable, or is the fact that so many people can gain access to art now that before only belonged to the socially elite strengthen it's value?
4. Do you consider Holocaust art to be beautiful, and if so, how does something beautiful come out of something so terrible? Do you think that these works of art would still have been made if no one was to see them?
I found some of your paintings while on the Internet. I also found some pictures by David Olere which I found to be very interesting and disturbing. To have witnessed these horrible things must have made their painting a very emotional experience. I promise not to forget.
Any help you could give me would be very helpful. Please respond to anything you wish in any way you choose. Thank you for your time. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and I hope to hear from you.
Date: Sunday, March 8, 1998 4:40:11 AM
Subj: Reply from David Aronson
Thanks for the E-mail. To avoid confusion, I'm going to answer your questions in the order you posed them.
1. I am 34 years old. I grew up in the Philadelphia area where I attended the Hussian School of Art. I come from a family of artists and musicians. My parents were folksingers in the sixties and my daughter, who is 14, is a fifth generation artist on my mother's side.
My connection to the Holocaust is that I am a Jew. If I had been born in another time and place, I, too, would have been sent to the gas chambers, my only crime that of being born a Jew. For most of my life I avoided that fact and I avoided really looking at the Holocaust. Recently, in my ongoing task of understanding and healing my Self, I realized that much of my self-definition as a Jew was colored by the Holocaust. I was inspired to create the series by the artist Judy Chicago's book "The Holocaust Project," which is about her re-identification as a Jew through examining the Holocaust.
The "paintings" are actually a combination of pencil drawings and computer manipulation. Some of the pieces are pure photo-collage. When I started the series, I was using the computer solely for composition; then I discovered that there were infinitely more possibilities to be explored by feeding the pencil drawings back into the computer and working on them further.
I don't experience any emotion while actually working on a piece of art, as I get into a very detached state of mind. However, the reading I did on the Holocaust to stimulate images stirred up a lot. Incredible rage was the primary emotion. Rage that people could literally exterminate other people, my people, as if they were vermin, and for absolutely no reason. I imagined the pain that those victims felt watching their loved ones starve to death or be shot or burned in an oven. Mothers having their babies snatched from their arms and smashed against a wall. I imagined what I would have felt, and I can tell you, it was overwhelming at times.
I went to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. and was incredibly moved by the wall listing the names of all the "righteous gentiles" who risked their lives and often the lives of their families to hide Jews, sometimes people they didn't even know. At the same time it enraged and saddened me to know that the vast majority of non-Jews in Europe, except for those in a few countries, either stood by and did nothing as their neighbors were taken away to be murdered, or else participated in the slaughter.
Yes, I do all types of art. I do illustration in mixed media and pen and ink; I paint in oils and have done a few portraits, one of which hangs in a Philadelphia middle school; and I do computer graphics.
2. I really can't say what effect my work will have on people. Art can be many, many things and people can experience it in many, many ways. Certainly, art that is about a historical event such as my series can be educational or enlightening. Apparently, it has made you more aware of the horrors of the Holocaust, and that's good. My reasons for creating the series, however, are more complex than just to inform. One reason was to explore my self-image as a Jew and to heal whatever wounds and pain I had around that whole area. On the other hand, in my opinion, art that does not have an impact, that does not affect people in one way or another, is not "Art" with a capital A. Art is not to look "pretty" or "nice" or to match the sofa, but to communicate in ways that words cannot, and maybe to change the person viewing the art in some small way.
"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." Many Jews, myself included, feel that the Holocaust must always be remembered and people must always be educated about it so that it never happens again. Unfortunately, genocide is still perpetrated in our world; the most recent example being Sadam Hussain's slaughter of the Kurds.
3. What makes art "valuable?" This is a complex issue. To many, these days, art is a commodity, an investment. It is valuable because it is rare, like gold. There are some who acquire art as a status symbol. For others, the value is aesthetic; art is a thing of beauty. For others, such as myself, art communicates on a deeper, non-verbal, sometimes visceral level. It speaks of things of the soul, of the spirit.
As far as I'm concerned, the more people have access to art the better. However, it seems that many people today can't appreciate art, probably because they've been numbed by the mass media, television, Hollywood, etc. This more than anything, in my opinion, is why art has been relegated to the seeming position of general insignificance it now occupies in our society. There are other factors as well. For one thing, the snobbery and elitism around "high art" turns many people off. Also, in the 20th century, much art has become self-indulgent and about nothing. Most people need art to be about something. It doesn't need to be literal, but it needs to be about something or people can't relate to it. Another factor is that a lot of art has become "conceptual." It is no longer experienced non-verbally or viscerally. It needs to be "understood." This leaves many people, myself included, cold.
4. What makes art "good?" Again, a complex issue. Everyone has their own criteria. For me there are several factors:
a. Technical considerations. Is it composed well? Can the artist draw well? Is their use of color good? Is their handling of the media good? Etc., etc.
b. Subject matter. Is the image original, interesting, thought-provoking, stimulating, etc., or is it trite and clichéd.
c. How "honest" is it? Has the artist really revealed something about themselves? Were they really involved in the creation of the art? Did they really put time and energy into it, or is it all surface? This is not something that can be analyzed; you just "know" by looking at the art.
d. Does it "speak" to me? This is a highly subjective and individual thing. Everyone responds to art differently based on who they are and what they've experienced.
Yes, I would still make art if there was nobody to view it, but I can't imagine that happening. The reason people make art is to share their experience of being human. To say, "This is what it was like for me; to be incarnated in a human body on planet Earth, at this time, in this place, with all the rest of you." Without others to see the art and share in the artist's life, the circle is only half-completed.
I hope this answers your questions sufficiently. Good luck in all your endeavors and thanks for caring.
Date: Wednesday, March 18, 1998 2:59:50
Subj: thank you from Jerry
I wanted to personally thank you for answering my questions recently. Your reply helped me to write a better paper and was quite helpful in helping me understand.
Tonight I attended a dance performance by the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company called "Aide Memoire." It dealt with "the influence of memory of the Holocaust on our lives." I found it to be very interesting, and emotionally compelling. Though I don't know anything about dance and this was the first time I had ever attended a performance like this, I came away with a new appreciation. I heard that there was a woman there in the audience who had survived a concentration camp. I'm sure the performance held a lot of meaning to her.
Thank you again for taking the time to respond. I think that you and the others who do Holocaust art are doing a good job of helping us all to remember.
Dear Mr. Aronson,
I am an exchange student from Germany staying in Memphis, Tennessee for a school year. I am in 11th grade and for our English class we have to write a research paper about a specific area of the Holocaust. I picked the theme "Holocaust Art," and that is actually the reason for my visit to your pages. However, I was interested in that subject a long time before. I have studied this part of German history for several years and it makes me know many things that went on during WWII. The fact that I am, and all of my ancestors always were, German makes me feel different about it than anybody else would. I know it does not change much anymore, but when I looked at your pictures I wanted to say that I am so very ashamed and sorry about these things.
I hope you will be able to exhibit much more to show the world such cruelties so they will not repeat one of the darkest chapters in human history.
May the Lord bless the souls of the ones who suffered, and may He forgive my ancestors, for they did not know what they had done.
Thank you so much for your letter. It really meant a lot to me. However, I don't believe that you need to feel ashamed or apologize for the actions of your ancestors, just learn from them. Learn to speak out against hatred. If enough German people had protested, Hitler might not have been able to wield the power that he did. I don't think the German people were unique in their blind obedience. People everywhere are like that because they're taught to obey rather than think for themselves; to conform rather than be a unique individual. This, to me, is the real enemy and is prevalent everywhere. The fact that people like you exist gives me hope for humanity. Thanks again.
My name is Greg Stiefel. I am a middle school teacher in New York City. My class and I are working on a Holocaust unit. Your art has inspired many fruitful discussions. Thank You. Do you have any words of wisdom for my students as we attempt to come to grips with the horror of this period of modern history?
Dear Mr. Steifel,
Thanks for writing. I'm glad you were able to use my artwork in a constructive way. The following words of wisdom are from my father who is a folksinger, storyteller, and lecturer on such topics as Jewish history and the Holocaust.
The Holocaust was the end result of a process. The beginning is in our attitudes towards those we consider to be "other." It is possible, though difficult, to change people's minds through exchange of ideas. Perhaps it is helpful to begin with actions, which is how ideas affect our world.
The Nazis first had to de-humanize the Jews. This does not mean that the Jews were or became less than human; it means that, through propaganda, the Jews became less than human in the minds of the German and other peoples.
One of the major ways disrespect of "others" is promoted is through calling them names. Contrary to the popular rhyme that says, "Names will never hurt me," Rev. Robert Fulghum has written, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will break my heart." And, in this country, abusive, demeaning, hurtful names are hurled around with impunity-especially by teen-agers because of their own insecurity.
Consider some of the names hurled around-sometimes with intent to hurt, often without consideration of just how much damage they do. Consider: yid, kike, jewboy, mick, wop, dago, guinea, spick, nigger, jungle bunny, cracker, honkey, gook, chink, jap, fag, dike, queer, etc., etc.
It is important to not only refrain from using these epithets, which are lethal weapons to the emotional well-being of those to whom they are directed, but to condemn their use at the time they are used so that not only the perpetrators, but the bystanders as well, know that these attacks are not to be tolerated. It is not only important to not be a perpetrator, but to not be a bystander as well, because if you are not part of the solution of this problem, you are part of the problem. Bystanding, that is, silence in the face of evil, encourages and gives assent to evil. We need those with the courage to be nay-sayers to evil out loud.
Beyond this, we need to become familiar with the customs and beliefs of "others" so that we start to see their humanity and stop feeling threatened by them.
Hope you find this helpful.
Dear Mr. Aronson,
It is people like you that make my job as a teacher exciting and fun. The students respond to this sort of lesson more enthusiastically than any other. They will be on the edge of their seats when I read them this letter.
All the best,
I am currently studying the holocaust in Year 12 for my HSC in Australia. I have decided to use your powerful and moving image titled "hell" as a related piece of text to our main text 'Life is Beautiful'. We are expected to analyse and deconstruct all the graphical aspects of the picture. Just for context i would like to know what was your reason behind constructing this certain piece. I would like to know where the inspiration came from if it was even that? Did you experience the holocaust first hand? Also i am wondering if you would be able to basically outlined why the use of the different images. It would be much appreciated and it would certainly give myself a greater insight into this image/picture when writing about it in the HSC.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Southern Cross School
Hello Adam--thanks for writing. I'd like
to begin my response to your questions by explaining my philosophy
of art and my approach to making art. For me, the most powerful
art is art that communicates on a deep, non-verbal or pre-verbal
level. I do not subscribe to the ideas of "analyzing"
or "deconstructing" art. This seems like a 19th century
attitude to me; like killing an animal and taking it apart bit
by bit to try to understand "life." Art is meant to
be experienced with your gut and your heart. In creating a piece
of art, therefore, I try not to plan it out too much with my linear,
logical "left-brain." I start with the seed of an idea
and allow associations to arise more or less spontaneously. In
practice, some pieces are more "planned" than others,
and some evolve considerably as I work, often changing into something
very different than what I started with. Hopefully, the finished
piece of art will resonate with the viewer on a subconscious or
archetypal level and they will place their own "meaning"
onto it. Therefore, there is no one "correct" interpretation.
Even if I was shooting for something specific, someone else's
take on the piece could show me another side that I hadn't considered.
I attempt to work with symbols which are many-faceted, revealing
different layers of meaning. None if this is forced or contrived;
just a general approach to making art. I'm irritated by the trend
I perceive in art criticism where the artist is obliged to make
an "artist's statement" which spells out with words
what they are trying to "say" with their art, and then
judged successful or unsuccessful based on whether or not the
person viewing the art "got it." This is putting art
in too narrow of a box and, if we are going to use the analogy
to writing, likening it to factual prose when it is actually poetry.
Please understand that I am not criticizing you or your teachers;
just articulating some thoughts and opinions of my own. So it
might be a good idea to include your own response to the image
in your paper, as it is just as important and valid as anything
I have to say about it. How did it make you feel? What did it
make you think about? What associations did you make to it, personal
or cultural? This is all part of the gestalt of the art which
includes making it, what I get from making it, viewing it, what
you get from viewing it, our dialogue, and the image itself as
an autonomous entity. Having gotten that off my chest, I will
also talk about some of my own ideas and associations involved
in making "Hell." Fortunately, I did not experience
the holocaust first-hand, but I am Jewish by birth, and for most
of my life, I ignored the reality of the holocaust. I am also
involved with healing work, and in my own healing process I came
to a point where I realized that the holocaust had made an impact
on my self-perception and identity. The series was done as a way
of confronting the holocaust and what it means to me head-on.
The "meaning" of the piece "Hell" is spelled
out pretty clearly by the caption underneath the image: "Hell
is right here on earth now." If hell is the absence of god's
light, then humans create hell on earth when they don't see god
in all people and all things. This is actually a view of the concept
"hell" that I've heard expressed by more enlightened
Christians, as opposed to the idea of a literal place "hell"
that one goes to after one dies. Visually, the piece was inspired
by medieval depictions of hell which feature a huge satan seated
in the center devouring tiny souls. The original composition included
a child's body half hanging out of the nazi-satan's mouth which
didn't work well compositionally and so was changed to a child
held in his hand. The nazi-satan figure has the face of a deep-sea
fish that lives in the depths of the ocean where no light can
penetrate. This is an association which did not occur to me consciously
while making the piece and was only realized now while thinking
about the image in order to answer your questions. This is a good
illustration of the intuitive picture-making process I described
earlier. Actually, when you think about it, concentration camps
were very much like a medieval description of hell: horrible stenches
from piles of rotting corpses, people walking around in never-ending
misery and anguish, and demon/nazis tormenting and torturing people
continuously and indiscriminately. Hope you find this information
useful. Thanks again for your appreciation of my work.
In a message dated 6/28/02 4:46:26 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I have recently viewed your gallery on "holocaust" and personally found the images to be rather disturbing,
Good--they're supposed to be.
not to say that my opinion speaks for others. I was wondering if you were a victim of the holocaust and was there to witness these horrid events
No, I was not.
and also what your opinion of the German people is...as a whole.
I don't have an "opinion" of any group of people as a whole. You cannot judge an entire group of people by the actions of some of the members of that group. People are people and I take them individually. Any "judgement" I might have of someone is based on their behavior, not their ethnicity. It is that kind of thinking--judging a group "as a whole" that led to the Holocaust in the first place.
It seems that your art reflects some deep bitterness toward something, but what?
If there was any "bitterness" meant to be conveyed with my Holocaust series, which there is not, it would probably be towards the wholesale torture and slaughter of six million innocent people and the attempted genocide of an entire race, don't you think?
I understand that art is all in the mind of the artist and sometimes others don't understand what the idea is that you, the artist, are trying to convey, so if you might enlighten me as to your point,
There is no "point." Having been born Jewish, I decided to explore the Holocaust through art as a self-healing exercise. Although, fortunately, I did not experience the Holocaust first-hand, it still had a psychological effect on me and this is what I wished to "exorcise" through the series of images. It also had the effect of being very moving to many people and reminding them of man's capacity for evil, so that hopefully we will never have to see another Holocaust.
as I feel that art and holocaust events don't really mix,
Why not? What do you feel art should be about?
as it sort of cheapens the memory
How does it cheapen it? Does making art about something "cheapen" it? How does that work? Do you dislike art? Is it a "cheap" thing?
of what happened to any specific people...irish, russian, jew, slavic or German as there have been many holocausts in this past century and all of them deserve a certain amount of respect.
What makes you think I do not respect or care about the suffering of other groups of people? Yours is an attitude I encountered once before expressed by a woman at a gallery where the series was on exhibit. It seems as if you think that because I focus on the Jewish holocaust, that somehow implies that I feel other genocides and atrocities are "unimportant." I focused on the Jewish holocaust because I myself am Jewish, therefore it has special meaning for me and had an impact on my life and self-identity. I don't know what your feelings are, but this other person's anger at the Jews' "always talking about the Holocaust" and belligerent, obnoxious questioning of why I only did images about the Jewish genocide and not that of other groups seemed to me to be nothing more than thinly-veiled anti-semitism. Are you a member of a group that experienced great persecution? If so, is it ok for you to talk about it? To make art about it? To feel grief or anger over it even if it didn't happen to you personally? To come to terms with what it means to you as a member of that group? If your answer is no, then why not?
I hope you understand what it is that I'm trying to say,
No, I really don't. All I'm getting from your letter is that you feel I shouldn't have made art about the Holocaust because that somehow "cheapens" it; that I have some kind of a grudge or bitterness, possibly against Germans (are you German?); and that I don't care about other genocides because I made art about what happened to my own group.
and just felt that you would be able to explain to me further the "idea" or the "motive" for the art.
Hopefully, I've explained my "ideas and motives." I'm curious what your "motive" for writing me this letter was. What kind of issues do you have about the Holocaust, or artists, or Jews? Hmmm?
Burning Death A poem written about the Holocaust painting Furnace by David Aronson. I saw the child burning and crying, This little girl knows she is dying, Fear on her face, her hair burning red Very soon she knows she'll be dead. That little girl screaming in pain, To hear those screams would drive you insane, Why did they torture that little girl? Into hell she feels herself being hurled, Then she looks back onto her life, No children she'll have, she won't be a wife, She thinks of her friends and hopes they're not dead And in her head she can hear things they've said. She had no teaching so there was no learning, She can feel her skin tearing, she can feel her skin burning, The children being burned in a heavy mass, They did not bother using the gas, But they always felt hell, they had no fun, Very soon all these children will be gone. By Charlotte Wardle Year 9
Hello, my name is (name withheld by request), single mother
of two residing in Tucson, Arizona. About five years ago I visited
a dream interpreter to help me with my morbid, twisted, very
graphic dreams I have had all my life. After my session (which
she didn't charge me for, because in her 20 something years of
interpreting dreams, she had never heard of such horrid things)
she determined that I am or was a victim or perpetrator of the
Holocaust in a past life. Well, since then, my dreams have stopped
and I have started to feel some peace of mind, and at the same
time I haven't really thought about it too seriously because
I'm not sure I really believe in that kind of thing. Then, two
days ago, I was surfing the web for home remedies for sick kids
and came across some art site that eventually led me to your
Holocaust art work. The first one I saw was "Hell"
and I couldn't believe my eyes. I felt nauseated and I know I
was white as a ghost. That picture depicted my dreams to a T
and the part that made me almost fall off my chair was the oval,
glass-like spectacle things in the eye sockets of the Hitler
man's face, which is a specific part of one of my dreams. Besides
the whole concept and images of your picture, what do the oval,
glass eye pieces represent to you or is there such a thing? I
need to know where this comes from! I had this dream back when
I was a teenager and it is still clear and vivid to this day.
In the dream, I had walked into an auditorium with very bright
fluorescent lights, and every inch of the walls and ceilings
were covered in baldheaded, naked, voluptuous dead women, perfectly
attached to the walls af if they were put there for decoration.
Then, a man in a doctor's coat walks in pushing a small, frail,
skinny, bald man in a wheelchair who is slouching, head hanging
in fear, and shaking. The doctor, whose mouth is stuck in a wide
open, diabolical laughing expression (just like in your picture)
but with no sound coming out, pushes the frail man away. The
doctor also has these oval shaped, glass spectacle things attached
to his eye sockets EXACTLY like what you portray in "Hell"!
In my dream I start to cry, scared because I know he is going
to do something terrible to this poor man and I am screaming
and sobbing, " Where are you taking him?!" Then I find
myself in a waiting room with a wall-sized observing window with
curtains closed behind it. The waiting room is pink with bright
fluorescent lighting. It has that hospital room atmosphere just
like your other picture "Life Is No Longer Sacred"
(which is another big similarity to my dreams but I wont go into
that now). I am now pacing anxiously, knowing I will not like
what I see behind those curtains. The curtains open behind the
glass observing window and in comes the little man on a gurney,
still alive, sheets pulled up to his chin, arms hanging out over
the sheets. At this time I am seriously overwhelmed with fear
and anxiety and start to sob again. The mad doctor then pulls
the sheets off the man, revealing that they had removed the lower
part of his body, leaving only the spine which is curled up with
a point at the end like a scorpion tail, and on his chest are
two masses of liver-like tissue. With only his arms, spine and
head left, the terrified man is trying to sit up using his shoulders
and what's left of his body (which only makes his spine curl
up even more with every move). He is extending his hand to me
as he is crying for help, blood streaming down his face, with
these eyes that look like dog eyes with tears of blood. (You
know how most dogs have black flesh around their all-black eyes?)
End of dream. Sorry...I'm trying to give you every detail without
sounding like Im trying to write a sick novel. I also have two
children bugging me while I'm trying to think...lol! I have never
written this down before in fear someone might read it...lol!
Needless to say, can it really be possible that I could be a
reincarnation of someone from this horrible time, or do I just
have a twisted imagination such as you and many other artists,
but I just dont use it to my potential? I did read that you do
past life regression, so I was hoping that maybe, being that
your thoughts are the same as mine in some sense, you might be
able to give me some insight. Thank you for your time.
Hi (name withheld by request). Wow--what
an amazing letter. I don't know where to start. First of all,
let me say that I am not an expert in past-life phenomena, although
I do have quite a bit of experience with it. Nor am I a trained
psychotherapist, although, again, I think I have quite a bit
of knowledge and understanding of psychology. So I will try to
answer you as best I can and I hope that you get something out
of it. To start with, it's entirely possible that these dreams
are past-life memories, but I tend to doubt it because the dreams
are highly symbolic. It's true that the nazis did perform horrible
medical experiments on living human beings, but a lot of the
imagery in your dreams, such as the women nailed to the wall
and the glass eyes you refer to, obviously could not have existed
in historical reality. Past-life memories in the form of dreams
tend to be very realistic and specific as to location, costume,
etc. and they tend to be recurring--the same scenario over and
over again. This is what leads me to believe that your dreams
are not true past-life memories. And to answer your question,
the eyes in my picture are actually the eyes of a deep-sea fish.
What really fascinates me about your letter is that the same
imagery occurred in your dreams and in my pictures. I don't know
if you are familiar with Carl Jung's concept of the collective
unconscious. Among other things, it represents a pool of symbolic
images below the threshold of awareness that all humans share
and have access to. These images often arise spontaneously in
dreams and in art. You see, my art is not so much about my having
a twisted imagination, but about inviting such images to arise
in my own mind and then be translated into art. So I would have
to say that you and I are drawing collective symbolic images
from the same place apparently. I'm sorry that you had to experience
terrifying nightmares--I'm sure you suffered because of it--and
I wouldn't wish them on you or anyone. However, from the perspective
of an artist interested in psychology and often drawing images
from dark places as I do, I find the imagery of your dreams to
be highly creative, powerful and fascinating in a morbid, horrific
fashion. It could be that your nightmares were a symbolic representation
of some trauma or traumas in your own past that have been repressed
and seek expression through your dreams. In my opinion, you have
a creative and very vivid imagination (or at least, your subconscious
mind does). My daughter, an artist herself with a powerful imagination,
used to have horrific nightmares such as your own and they were
basically symbolic representations of repressed emotions such
as fear, anger, etc. that were too overwhelming for her to experience
when the traumatic events that stimulated them first occurred.
Another possibility, although a bit more far-out, is that you
are tapping into some kind of collective memory of the holocaust
and your mind is interpreting it symbolically, or perhaps mixing
in personal symbolism. I subscribe to Jung's idea that the psyche
always seeks wholeness and will lead you to images and words
and experiences that will re-stimulate the old wound in order
to allow the repressed emotion to come to the surface and the
fragmented part of the self to be re-integrated. Or to put it
in a simpler way, you have to feel your feelings to be whole
and healthy and if you're holding onto old feelings, the universe
will keep giving you ways to feel them. It's possible that the
holocaust resonates with you at the level of your own pain--it
represents your pain for you. Of course, I don't know anything
about you or your life, so you'll have to decide if any of this
has any validity for you. At any rate, these are my thoughts
on the matter and I hope they were helpful in some way. Perhaps
making art out of your dream images, whether it is drawing, painting,
writing or something else, would be helpful. I fully believe
in the therapeutic value of giving the shadow a voice, and these
dream images of yours are definitely shadow images. Thanks again
for writing and sharing your experience.
Dear Mr. Aronson,
Hi My name is Megan Taylor and I am doing a power point presentation on an artist whose art is inspired from the holocaust. I think your work is amazing and I would love to do my presentation on some of your pieces. If it is possible could you send me a brief commentary on "Next Time", "Why Us", and "Where is The Glory." Although I am amazed by these paintings, I am a bit confused by their literal meanings. Any other information you could give me would be great!! Thank you.
Hi Megan--thanks for writing. I'm glad
you appreciate my work. I'll try to give you some useful information.
"Next Time" is based on an actual photo of a nazi soldier
with his gun to the head of a woman holding a baby. The picture
is not symbolic at all. The nazis slaughtered entire villages
full of women and children, often making them dig their own mass
grave pits and then shooting them as they stood on the edge so
they would fall right in. The message of the caption is that the
selection of the Jews as outsiders was arbitrary. In all places
and times, there is always some minority group who is persecuted
by the majority. The minority group becomes the "other"
and has the negativity of the majority that the majority can't
accept within themselves projected onto them. They are then demonized,
made less than human, and scapegoated. So be aware that this goes
on, speak out against racism and other forms of discrimination
because who knows, next time it could be you--it could be your
group that is persecuted and murdered. "Why Us?" was
inspired by collages that some of my young elementary school age
students had made using cut-out heads from magazines and drawn
bodies. There was something about this combination that seemed
very powerful to me. The idea is that it's the children who were
victimized crying out, telling their story, and saying "why
me?" Children can't understand the political and sociological
phenomena involved in persecution and genocide. They must have
felt as if they were being punished for an unknown crime. Therefore
"Why us? What did we do wrong to deserve this?" It's
heartbreaking to contemplate what these children must have suffered.
"Where is the Glory?" is a piece that really needs it's
caption to make any sense. I'm not 100% pleased with this image
and feel I could have done more with it. However, it was made
when I was first learning to use the computer as an artistic medium
and my skills and options were more limited. Basically, it's challenging
the notion that war is glorious and that making war brings you
personal glory. The perspective of history shows us that the nazi
soldiers were nothing more than brutal, cold-blooded murderers
of millions of innocent men, women and children, people who had
comitted no crimes or acts of aggression and posed no threat,
so where is the glory in that? Hope you find this info helpful--good
luck with your presentation.
Dear Mr. Aronson, I would like to thank
you for the information you sent me yesterday. I received it last
night as I was finishing my presentation and the explanations
fit right in. Since the information was directly from you, it
was a big hit!!! The students and the teacher were very impressed
to hear me quote your words ( hope you don't mind). Thanks to
you and your helpful information I got a 100% on my report ( the
only one in the class).
Thanks again, Megan Taylor
Your references to the holocaust and
your photos refer to the six
million jews killed in World War Two. Fifty million people were killed
in World War Two. And the vast majority of them were not jews. Yet the
holocaust industry never seems to recognize their deaths nor mourn
them. Despite the fact they gave their lives to end the Nazi scourge.
Why is that ?
If you read the information that I posted on my site, you would know that I created my holocaust series to come to terms with what the holocaust means to me as a JEW! I am a Jew and so I focus on the Jewish experience of the holocaust. This does not mean that I do not care about nor recognize other genocides and atrocities, past or present, nor the life of any human being sacrificed or tragically taken in war. Why would you assume that it does? And "holocaust industry"? What the fuck is that? That is just downright ignorant and nasty! I'm sorry, my friend, but you seem to me to be nothing more than just your run-of-the-mill anti-semite. Jews were the victims of genocide and we have the right to talk about it and make art about it, just as does any victim of man's inhumanity to man. If you don't like the way I or anyone else goes about it, too bad! You have the right to ignore us, so what is your problem? Do you think the holocaust never happened? And that Jews are using the holocaust story to manipulate people and gain sympathy? Do you think Jews are trying to control the world, or do? For your information, if you go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., you will see that non-jews who risked their lives in order to hide Jews from the Nazis are honored, and that was actually the most moving part of the whole museum for me. And I'm sure there are many more such instances. When Alex Haley wrote the book and made the movie Roots, were you upset because they didn't talk about and honor the white people who died in the civil war and in the civil rights movement of the 60s? If you are, as I suspect, just looking for more reasons to dislike Jews, then I'm sure this response will mean nothing to you, and you actually don't even deserve the time or energy I'm taking to reply. But if you are genuinely questioning your faulty perception that Jews who talk about the holocaust don't care about other victims, then I suggest you do some research. Read some Jewish history. Jews have been scapegoated for a long long time, and it's natural that they would fear it happening again. You will see that there have been Jews who were great people and Jews who were not. There are heros and villains, just like the rest of humanity. It's the hallmark of the racist and the bigot to lump all members of a group together and assume that they all think alike and act alike. Whatever the case may be with you, anti-semite or not, please do not write to me again ever.
Hey David I really enjoyed your series
dealing with the Holocaust; very disturbing. In the spirit of
fairness and equality, would you do a series based upon Hosea
"The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open. "
Or at least Exodus 21:20 ?
"if a man (ie, a Hebrew) beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property. "
Slavery and genocide (or at least brutal murder of non combatants) is undeniably a part of your ethnic/racial legacy.
Unfortunately, man's inhumanity to man is part of the human legacy--slavery, genocide, rape, making war on your neighbors--no particular group is exempt. Where in my series do you see a denial of the brutality in the old testament? Simply depicting the holocaust does not imply that Jews as a group are not also guilty and capable of murder and brutality. Did I say that? No--I did not. And personally, I put no stock in the old or the new testaments. I do not believe they are the "word of god." They have been used for centuries to justify all kinds of horrors and I, personally, will have nothing to do with them. I am a Jew by ethnicity, but my spiritual beliefs and practices have absolutely nothing to do with the bible.
God's "chosen people" parallels "master race" quite nicely; and "goyim" and "untermenschen" go together very well as they most certainly express the same concepts.
I do not believe that Jews are the "chosen
people," and Jews who do think that make me sick. In fact,
anybody who thinks they're superior because of the tribe they
were born into makes me sick! This is what causes a lot of the
misery in the world. I call it the "sneetch syndrome"
after the book by Dr. Seuss. Unfortunately, it's part of our primate
heritage to be territorial and heirarchical--my tribe good, your
tribe bad. And I do not use the term "goyim," just as
I do not use the term "nigger" or "chink"
or what have you. Racism of any kind makes me see red! I do not
judge anyone by their ethnicity. I take people on an individual
basis. I am a member of the human tribe first, and the Jewish
tribe second. And my membership in the Jewish tribe is an accident
of birth--I could have been born into the Irish tribe or the Italian
tribe, or whatever, just as easily and it wouldn't make a bit
of difference. Then I would have to deal with the collective positives
and negatives of that group. (Incidentally, both of my ex-wives
are Irish catholics)
Since you are (religious or not) a descendant of Abraham, I am sure that I have raised your hackles.
What's raised my hackles is not your pointing out the obvious fact that Jews can display the worst types of human behavior, just like anyone else (duh) but the assumptions you have made about me and my beliefs and values.
That is not my goal, but since REMEMBERANCE is the operative word concerning your holocaust art, I thought it would be perfectly logical to use verses from the Jewish Bible to do some reminding of my own.
No--rememberance is not the operative
word--you haven't been paying attention. The operative word is
healing. And healing for me on a personal level. I don't care
about the Holocaust any more than I care about any other genocide,
but it has a personal significance for me because I did happen
to be born into the Jewish tribe. And because I felt that the
fact of the Holocaust--my awareness of it as a child--had affected
me psychologically and emotionally, I decided to make art about
it as a way of healing whatever psychological or emotional damage
had been done. Period. When I look at the Holocaust, the only
thing I care about is that millions of innocent people were murdered!
My series is not a political statement! Nor is it a sociological
statement or a religious one! I do not care about all of this
bullshit that you bring up--your stupid fucking debates about
the old testament and what the Jews did or didn't do! Millions
of innocent men, women and children were slaughtered! And this
breaks my heart. And it also breaks my heart no less that millions
of innocent Native Americans were slaughtered and that their land
was stolen and that their culture was destroyed. A genocide no
less horrible than the Holocaust. In fact, I refuse to celebrate
Thanksgiving or Columbus Day because I see them as marking the
beginning of a genocide. And it breaks my heart that millions
of Africans were kidnapped from their homes and forced into slavery,
and that even after they were freed, they were still treated as
subhuman, and their lives were worth less than whites. As an American,
these are the injustices closest to me, but it doesn't mean I
don't care about other genocides and cruelties throughout the
world and throughout history. And despite the fact that I am proud
to be an American, it doesn't mean that I support the government's
policies that result in huge numbers of innocent people in foreign
countries being killed.
Any attempt to rationalize or deny the guilt of your ancestors would come shockingly close to what modern day holocaust deniers are guilty of (ie, denying the reality of history.)
PS, and speaking of reality, if you attempt to accuse me of anything (ie, anti-semitism) please remember that in reality I am only guilty of using fairness and logic.
How about if I accuse you of being an
Sadly, much of human history consists of spiritual beings (humans) behaving like bloodthirsty animals--including Jews. Why would I want to deny this? If you knew anything about me, you would know that I am a healer, and wounds can't be healed if they are denied. In fact, this is what most of my art is about--bringing the darkness to light. Dragging the horror out into the light of day, so that it can be accepted and ultimately, released.
Any slurs or stereotyping against me would once again draw frightening parallels between race-worshipping aryans and race-worshipping jews.
As I said already, I don't stereotype
people and I don't use racial slurs.
You are the one who is stereotyping me--you are making all kinds of assumptions about what I believe based on my being Jewish. I'm so sick of you people. Why don't you grow up? I love all of my brothers and sisters on this planet. I love my Christian brothers, and my Moslem brothers, and my African brothers, and my Asian brothers, and my German brothers, etc etc etc. My love is not always a perfect love, but if I am angry or find fault with people, it's because of their behavior--what they do--on an individual level. We are all as human as everyone else--for good or ill. Nobody stands above as superior. We have our moments of glory and our moments of shame--all of us. And I am as much to blame as anyone else for contributing to the disharmony in our world. It's time to put aside this primitive tribal territorial bullshit. It's the behavior of monkeys! Awareness of the global tribe--of the fact that our similarities greatly outweigh any differences of skin tone, custom, etc--I believe to be the next step in human evolution. Why don't you get on board the peace train, chimpy.
(And please don't write to me again. I'm just not interested in this bullshit. I'm sure there are plenty of race-worshipping Jewish chosen ones out there who would love to argue with you.)
Hello, my name is Christopher and while
I was reading over some of the email you received due to your
holocaust pieces and I wanted to ask you this...
Why do you become so utterly incensed and enraged whenever an emailer assumes that because you are Jewish and did a holocaust themed piece that you are either downplaying other atrocities, attacking people of Germanic decent, promoting Zionism or Jewish Supremecism or anything along those lines?
I've looked over your holocaust gallery and find nothing to suggest any of the aforementioned things, and with that said I wonder why it is that these assumptions on the part of others get you so angry, I mean, if it's your piece and you know their words are just born out of mis-interpretation or xenophobia what do they matter? is it a personal pet peeve of yours?
Hi Christopher--thanks for writing. The
reason those assumptions upset me is because they are the assumptions
of an anti-semite. The tone of those letters was one of criticism
and condemnation, not simple curiosity as yours is. And if there's
one thing that makes me see red, it's racism. Also, if you will
take notice, I did not simply curse these people, but tried to
point out how racist their statements and assumptions are in the
hopes that someone may benefit from the airing of these issues.
They wrote to me out of some kind of misplaced anger (which is
what fuels most racism) and I have the right to respond to them
with my own anger. These things need to be talked about. At the
risk of using a cliche, we live in a global village now. Human
beings need to move beyond their tribal-primate territorial shit-flinging
behavior and start using their cerebral cortexes. We're all one
species and species have been known to dissapear. If we keep hating
and killing each other over stupid STUPID miniscule cultural differences
and variations in skin color, then we're going to go the way of
the dinosaurs. That, my friend, is why I get so enraged.
Thanks for an intelligent question.