Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wall of Light

Generally Holocaust Museums and Memorials stay in one's memory for the tale they tell, though several have stayed with me because of their personal qualities: an extraordinary sculpture, a replica of the original which is at Dachau, that is now hidden away in the garden overhanging the cliffs at Yad VaShem in Jerusalem, essentially a fragment of barbed wire fence constructed out of human bodies; the interior architecture of the museum in Washington D.C., designed by James Ingo Freed; the glorious metal Star of David in Valašské Meziříčí in the Czech Republic; the gorgeous myrtle trees that provide an eruv for the simplest and most sculptural of all Holocaust memorials, a tallit laid out on the ground, in Charleston, south Carolina; the gargantuan copper hand cankered with bodies that rises up above Miami.

It was at the Miami Monument that I took the photograph which became this painting. You enter the museum from the road by way of a narrow half-tunnel that leads to the courtyard where the sculpture and the Memorial Wall are the focus of the memorial, but there are chinks in the stonework, and on certain days, when the sun is at the right height, it pierces the stone and carves lazer beams of illumination through the tunnel, as though the Priestly Blessing were being recited in honour both of the victims of the Holocaust and those who made this memorial a reality - "there is a crack in everything," as Leonard Cohen once so beautifully expressed it; "that's how the light gets in". I must have taken dozens of photos, trying to capture the light, but time after time it bounced, blurred, wobbled, refracted. In the end I had no choice but to take the best of those photographs, scan it, and then create the image of the absolute by hand, using my digital paintbrush.

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