Second Generation Women Artists After the Holocaust, Themes and Symbols

Director of Contemporary Studies Program and Professor of Humanities Dorota Glowacka from the University of King’s College in Canada visited St. Mary’s on Wednesday to deliver a lecture titled, “Encounters with the Daughters of Absence: Women Artists after the Holocaust.” Lecture and Fine Arts, The Arts Alliance, The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, The Department of Art and Art History, and Women/Gender/Sexuality Studies all sponsored this event. Professor Bjorn Krondorfer for the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies introduced the speaker.

Glowacka took an interest in the Holocaust because her father was a survivor. According to an email sent to staff, students, and faculty, she “left her native Poland in 1989 to pursue doctoral studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.” Her lecture dealt with how second generation women artists expressed their parents’ suffering. Part of her lecture dealt with whether it was even possible for someone removed from the Holocaust by a generation to adequately represent their parents’ suffering. She even asked, “To what extent can children of the Holocaust witness the Holocaust?”

Glowacka answered this question by explaining that children of the Holocaust were secondary witnesses. They saw the pain their parents hid or explained to them out of protection, and in this way were also negatively affected by the Holocaust. In this way the art Glowacka presented acted as both a way for the artists to work through their parents’ suffering as well as a way to work through their own.

Students responded positively to the presentation. Senior Alexandra Cosenze said, “It’s a way of looking at the Holocaust in a different light, people who are affected by people affected by the Holocaust.” Cosenze also noted a trend in some of the paintings, saying, “I think it’s weird that a lot of the artists use one main color. I wonder if that’s constant with other artists who deal with the Holocaust.”

Cosenze was referring to paintings where artists made color choices that corresponded with both good and bad parts of a Holocaust victim’s life. In one of the paintings Glowacka explained that yellow was both a reference to the artist’s mother’s favorite color (because it reminded her of sunlight) as well as the color of the Star of David that Jews had to sew on their clothes. Another artist used the color blue for the same reason: it referenced the color of Cyclon B gas.

Senior Laura Flanagan also commented on the nature of these paintings saying, “They were all abstract, nothing was completely representational.” However not all of the art shown were paintings. Glowacka also presented installations by artist Lily Markiewicz. One of these installations was a mirror with the word “Jew” written across it.

Glowacka ultimately saw these as a way of expressing different histories but more importantly as a “journey from traumatic experience to affirmation of life.”

Glowacka wrote the book, “Disappearing Traces: Holocaust Testimonial, Ethics, Aesthetics” and was also co-editor of the novel “Between Ethics and Aesthetics.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *