When I had finished with preparations for the pop-up show I had some concern that the narrative line these canvases laid down was too tenuous and thus confusing. The responses overwhelmed me in their depth of feeling and those feelings were frank and true including the non-jews who started off “well I am not Jewish but this is too moving, I cannot stop crying and I too joined them in the universal implications of the images.
An early interest came from my fascination of his two novels which I read in the Penguin paperback edition for which Philip Roth wrote the preface. The story of his tragic and absurd murder so perfectly illustrates the end of European Jewry. I was fortunate that my best friend Angello Bellfatto who’s deeply felt reading of these short texts aided my shallower one. We would walk home to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge discussing Bruno Shulz’ images (and his drawn ones too) and it would take forty-five extra minutes to cross for all the laughing at a particular passage. I had one advantage. Drohobych, Schulz’ home time was close to Lodz where came one side of my family.
The Murder of Bruno Schulz, for which I had always envisaged a triptych, established one locus for the construction of the series.
In a very different way the canvas of the Exiles entered the collection out of a portrait of a different time and place.
The women holding the silver candlesticks was painted for a series on the life of Antonieta Rivas-Mercado, who I had seen as the the feminist heroine of the second ten years of the Mexican Revolution and originally it was a panel for a triptych and this panel never made its way out of the studio. I painted it from a friend who was living in San Miguel and who was Croation. She was so completely sad that it seemed not possible to sell it and I was tempted to alter it or paint over it. I didn’t and when the time came her ineffable sadness.
I paint from life. If I feel the model fits if the model brings the appropriate sensation to the work there is all I need as resemblance, although it works just fine if I have both…
Their has been from the beginning a constant query into the veracity of memory. How often I close my eyes and try to model a face of someone who might have been the most important person to me and how elusive this has become.
I was not at the wedding, nor saw the proposal of my grandfather to my grand mother. I remember them with an affection that never wanes. Still, I have to close my eyes and then might have a momentary recognition of their personage. Memory, History and Mortality. These are unknowable and elusive. I do not know.
The world came to an end for me. No big deal. As much as I contend with modernity a new consciousness arrived. I rue the loss of my past. Who will tell me my great grandmother’s maiden name? I bend to put a stone on the monument that carries the family name just to say that in my own way I recognize them as all of myself.