University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
chgs@umn.edu
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CHGS

Selma Waldman

Selma Waldman (1931-2008)

 

Artist's Statement

Working at the end of the 20th Century, I am an artist who continues to be enamored of charcoal (the tool that does not lie) and the act of drawing. A substantial body of work now exists which has been compelled by nothing more than the visceral release on paper of the most fragile, humble, and deceptively simple of mediain an age that despises fragility, humility, and simplicity.

Although both charcoal and pastel can be fragmented, crushed, and reduced to dust in a single arbitrary or careless moment of time, both of these media can project into visual art potent and sensuous powers of endurance that will resonate with the same epic, intimate, universal, and demonic obstinacy as life itself.

The work generated by this vulnerable/invulnerable dialectic will have necessarily prevailed apart from the expected conceits of conventional representation and realism. In fact, since the artist was not a Holocaust survivor, and therefore resisted entering familiar iconographical or stereotypical Holocaust imagery into the work, the "Ringen um Brot" series (as well as all other works from that time) should be considered as conceptual in nature: that is, as metaphor embodied in gesture and conceptualized in series. Additionally, an uncompromising commitment to the practice of strenuous draftsmanship has determined that line, and not narrative, would be the uncommon force summoned to charge gesture with human meaning and confront shock with compassion.

An encounter in the late sixties with Elie Wiesel's "Night" it was the "Meir" passage in which the murders of father and son for bread were described provided the shattering conceptual ground for beginning the series I called "The Man and the Loaf of Bread," followed by "Das Ringen um Brot." Several decades later, in the nineties, two other disparate encounters gave unexpected confirmation to the earlier conceptual archetypes in the "Brot" series and in the hundreds of exploratory works on racism and genocide created thereafter: the first, the words of a Jewish writer who recorded that the search for his vanished roots in Poland had evolved on "the tightrope between revelation and despair"; the second, a scene from the film "Lamerica" in which a young Albanian man crouching in an overloaded truck dies with his head on the shoulder of an old man who, uncomprehendingly, tries to coax him "awake" by placing a bit of bread on his lips.

More recently, a few years after completing the panel called "Unearthly Grief," I learned that at one time the poet Akhmatova saw herself taking on the role of the traditional Russian "Wailer"the woman chosen by the village people to articulate the anguish of all those who had suffered loss and were overcome by grief.

It was the 1944 entry from an obscure Italian war diary by a British woman that offered in 1996 the conceptual seed for current worksinprogress: "Anatole France, in his old age, intended to write a novel (to be called) Les autels de la peur. The Altars of Fearcould a better title be found for an account of our times?" As a subseries of "Les Autels de la Peur," new insights into the cliche "naked aggression" asserted themselves. For instance, the drawings called "Skelani Stalker" (of a Serbian "irregular" on patrol in Bosnia) became the indirect confrontational reference to rapedeclared to be an act of genocide during the recent trial of a convicted Rwandan war criminal. Declared in the drawing, "ChasseurlLuxur.

- Selma Waldman

Artist Exhibit

 

Brotbruder. From the series Das Ringen um Brot. Charcoal, pastel. 9" x 12" 1971. From same series in the Terezin Ghetto Museum.

Brotbruder. From the series Das Ringen um Brot. Charcoal, pastel. 9" x 12" 1971. From same series in the Terezin Ghetto Museum.

Das Geschenk: Lagerbrot.  From the series Das Ringen um Brot.  Charcoal.  9" x 12" 1969.

 

The Man and the Loaf of Bread I.  From the Series Das Ringen um Brot.  Charcoal, ink, pastel.  11.5" x 17.75". 1968-1970.

The Man and the Loaf of Bread III. From the series Das Ringen um Brot.Charcoal, pastel. 9" x 12". 1969 - 1970. From same series in the Terezin Ghetto Museum.

The Man and the Loaf of Bread III. From the series Das Ringen um Brot.Charcoal, pastel. 9" x 12". 1969 - 1970. From same series in the Terezin Ghetto Museum.


Lagertanz: Brotmord
.  From the series Das Ringen um Brot.  Charcoal, pastel, conte.  13 7/8" x 16 1/2".  1970.

Lagertanz: Brotmord.  From the series of Das Ringen um Brot.  Charcoal, watercolor. 13 7/8" x 16 1/2". 1970


Lagertanz: Brotmord.  From the series Das Ringen um Brot .  Charcoal. pastel, oil.  13 7/8" x 16 1/2". 1970.

Unearthly Grief. From the series, Grief is the Gravity of the Earth. Charcoal, pastel, acrylic, gesso. Approximately 3" x 5" 1992 - 1994.


 

Killing Fields: From Behind. Charcoal, pastel. 24" x 32" 1994

Killing Fields: Heavy Dancers. Charcoal, pastel, gesso. 22" x 30" 1991.