Holocaust art exhibit celebrates survival, life

Arlé Sklar-Weinstein’s “The Unborn.” Photos/Rich Monetti

Arlé Sklar-Weinstein’s “The Unborn.” Photos/Rich Monetti

By RICH MONETTI
The ArtsWestchester’s, “Lest we Forget: Holocaust in Art” exhibit has been doing its part since March 8 and will continue to do so until April 27.

ArtsWestchester is located at 31 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains.

The depictions rendered engender a “profoundly moving” aura according to curator, Arlé Sklar-Weinstein.

“There’s such a celebration of survival and life to it,” Sklar-Weinstein, who was asked to curate the exhibit by the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center in Purchase, said.

As such, while it’s certainly compelling when long-lost artistic musings finally emerge from somebody’s attic, the quality of this work and the artists contributing it carry an aptitude that rises to the level of the message.

“These are very accomplished artists who are quite expressive,” Sklar-Weinstein said.

A connection to the Holocaust for these nine artist is definitely not lacking either. Actual survivors, children of survivors or those deeply impacted are among those on the roster.

A wire sculpting of the King of Bulgaria called “The Spirit” sets the tone.

“It’s really a celebration of the incredible spirit of the Bulgarian people and the king who saved all their Jews with such bravery and defiance in the face of the Nazi onslaught,” Sklar-Weinstein said of the work of Kaya Deckelbaum.

Jeanie Neyer’s “Mama Don’t Die.”

Jeanie Neyer’s “Mama Don’t Die.”

Holocaust survivor Ed Lessing offered a lighter array of images. His pieces are a tribute to his family and the experience of those fighting among the resistance with him in the forests of Holland, said Sklar-Weinstein, who is also the director of the Blue Door Art Center in Yonkers and has one of her own pieces in this exhibit.

Of course, the affair is far from a whitewash. Iona College art professor Sheila Kriemelman produced a series of pieces based on original photographs that came out of the concentration camps.

“That’s an example of an artist that is incredibly moved by the event, while not having a personal connection as such, Sklar-Weinstein said.

Yardena Donig Youner’s presentation also doesn’t let people escape the tragedy.

In “A Letter to Debbie,” Youner creates photographic collages superimposed over a correspondence of letters between an American soldier and his wife.

“He was a young lieutenant in the army and discovered the first of the concentration camps as the U.S. Army was marching across Europe,” she said.

Even so, the renderings aren’t necessarily the ones of mass graves, gas chambers and emaciated prisoners we’ve grown accustomed to, but rather artists finding ways to express the emotions of the atrocity.

“It’s more gut-level than shock-level,” Sklar-Weinstein said, “and just as compelling.”

At the same time, she puts the power of an exhibit like this above the moving images found on film.

“This gives you time to look and to contemplate,” Sklar-Weinstein said. “We don’t seem to have evolved very far from the caveman and we constantly need reminders of how quickly things shift when people aren’t paying attention.”

The exhibit sounds like a good place to start.