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Roy Strassberg was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950 and attended public schools in Queens and Long Island. He received a B.A. in Art from theState University of New York at Oswego and a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramic art from the University of Michigan. He has exhibited extensively at the national level and has work in several prominent public collections. Holocaust Bone Structures were shown as a room installation at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts during spring, 1998.
He is currently Interim Chair and Visiting Professor of Art at Appalachian State University and has held academic appointments at Memphis State University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and UNC Charlotte, where he was Chair of Art and Art History from 2001–2009.
When I was about eight years old, my father and I sat down to watch some television on WNEW Channel 5 in New York. It was called Remember Us, about the concentration camps and the destruction of the Jews of Europe. It was here that I was introduced to a new way of seeing the world.
For years I had relied on the drawing/designing process as a documentation of ideas that I would then execute in the studio. The creative part seemed to lie in the planning and the work was often characterized by a drudgery of process. By 1991 I became bored to the extent that I knew some unusually powerful changes had to occur of I might walk away from my work, which can best be described as postmodern and architectonic ceramic sculptures. At that point I decided to focus upon the Holocaust.
In working on the Holocaust, I was determined to find a simple symbolic language that could provide a degree of universal appeal in the sense that the image was easily identifiable but was placed in contexts that were unusual, eccentric, and peculiar to ordinary experience. The bone image emerged, it could easily be construed by any viewer as a symbol of death on an absolutely gigantic scale; genocide. But the work is consciously ambiguous so as to avoid specific narrative. The complex assembling that occurs in most of the pieces is reflective of the huge undertaking that the final solution actually was by the Third Reich-the government and the corporate community.
I feel a sense of deep, pervasive sadness because of my complete and utter lack of understanding of the kind of individual and institutional hatred that could culminate in a Holocaust. At times this sadness manifests itself in anger. Anger often leads to decision making that can be indelicate at best. The anger does not recede and the desire to be direct is strong. A recent conversation that I had with a gallery owner in another state can illustrate my feelings about this work. She wondered why at this point, fifty years after the fact, I would bother to make work about the Holocaust? I politely (I have been in Minnesota a long time) suggested to her that I had for a long time been interested in this as a source for artistic expression. After further reflection I wondered why I had not asked her if anti-semitism and racism was over and did issues of ethnicity no longer have pertinence in this imperfect world?
- Roy Strassberg
Page updated 2013.