University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Howard Oransky

Howard Oransky was born in Los Angeles in 1955. His B.A. and M.F.A., both in painting, are from California State University and California Institute of the Arts. Oransky worked for many years at the Walker Art Center and taught at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)in Minneapolis. Currently he is the director fo the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota.

Artist's Statement

The Germans and their collaborators weren't satisfied with killing every Jew they could find and stealing their property; they also sought to destroy Jewish culture and the humanity of the Jews. Two Liberated Camp Inmates, One Holding a Pan was made at a time when my primary motivation was to individualize the victims by creating a kind of artifact. I hoped that by making this painting in a careful, almost loving way, I could somehow inscribe the humanity of these two women back into the minds of viewers.

Nazi anti-semitism was new in its lethal synthesis of racism and industrialized murder. But it was nourished by centuries of Christian hatred of the Jews in Europe. Will These Bones Live? is structured to recall the altarpiece as an iconographic reference to that history. In this painting, I also explore the idea of Jewish survival, both physical and spiritual, by drawing on Ezekiel's prophecy of the valley of dry bones. I intentionally deleted part of his vision in which the Jewish people are resurrected by the breath of God, because the Jews of Europe and their world were irrevocably destroyed.

After visiting my studio, a perceptive teacher once asked me, "Where are the perpetrators?" Still searching for a response some years later, I turned to the Germans' own first-person accounts. Their records were self-implicating in a way that seemed almost casual. Auschwitz Gate: The Testimony of Rudolph Hoess incorporates the Commandant's memory of that death factory in his own calm, matter-of-fact voice.

- Howard Oransky

Will these bones live

Will These Bones Live? Triptych. Oil on linen; Oil on canvas; Gouache and ink on canvas. 80" x 132" 1994. Permission of the artist.

Artworks: Absence/Presence

Two Liberated Camp Inmates, One Holding a Pan. Oil on canvas. 80" x 55" 1984.

The Testimony of Rudolp Hoess. Gouache and ink on canvas. 36" x 72" 1995.

Page updated 2013.