Family Heritage

Family Heritage

2006 / oil on canvas

“…the soul you gave me is pure…”

The painting “Family heritage” was the first one in the “Roots” series.

The motifs derive from my hometown’s archives, family photos and my childhood memories, infused by the atmosphere of a scant postwar Jewish community in a small town in communist Czechoslovakia, which before the war was a thriving center of orthodox Jewry.

For the composition I used vertical layout in four levels, for conveying associations between the “high”- the abstract- geometrical ideal and “low”- the chaotic horror of the human condition.

The uppermost level is based upon the ceiling design of the Great Synagogue in my hometown, destroyed by the communists.

The background of the second level is the inner wall of the synagogue, with three persons in front of it.

In the center sits my father (za”l), as an infant (in 1917); on his right his father, in the uniform of the Austrian army; to his left is his mother; my grandparents, I never met – they perished in Auschwitz.

On the right side of the painting is the synagogue’s women’s balcony, which for me symbolizes my forgotten foremothers.

On the left is a big window, opening to a blue depth –promising freedom, but, alas, frightening smoke looms on the horizon…

The third lower level of the composition slides into a graveyard – based upon the actual jewish cemetery in my hometown.

My father’s business was grave-stones making, and he used to take me to the cemeteries when repairing old tombs; these are my best memories with him…Thus I have no fear of cemeteries and here I tried to paint the tombstones vibrant with life and light…symbols of the individual souls whose names are engraved on them…

In the fourth level is an abyss – filled with undefined chaotic forms, which symbolize the greatest horror – the trench where the Nazis threw the bodies of the Jews whom they shot… As I never could face such a terrifying subject, I admit, I dared to give it just a feeling of anxiety.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t leave it as that….and overlaid it with words emerging from my memory – of one of the most powerful, faith evoking and mysterious prayers from the Sidur (Jewish standard prayer book):

.”My God the soul, you gave me, is pure…”

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