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Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

  • Susan Erony

    Susan Erony

    Susan Erony was born in the United States and is an artist, historian, scholar, independent curator and adjunct professor currently residing in Gloucester, MA. She has grappled with complex and highly controversial subjects in her work and life for nearly three decades as a way of raising awareness and social consciousness. Erony developed an intense interest in photographing the residue of Nazi Germany's corporate structure, which led her to investigate race and genocide through art, and the Holocaust.

    Artist Statement

    Although I grew up in a Jewish family, with a Russian father who lost four siblings in pogroms and was arrested twice barely making it out of the country, the history of the Jews was not discussed in my home. I learned about the Holocaust while working in the civil rights movement. Almost thirty years later, I still wake up not knowing how I can be alive, comfortable and unafraid, when fifty years ago being Jewish was a death sentence for so many of my tribe. I spent three and a half years, from 1989 to 1993, focusing my artwork on the Holocaust and trying to answer my question: How can extreme discrepancies in the quality of existence be such a reality of the human condition? I went to Eastern Europe three times, photographing concentration camps, Jewish cemeteries and German steel plants. I collected remnants from Jewish synagogues in Poland. I talked to Jewish survivors, children of survivors, Polish Resistance fighters, Germans born after the war. The Holocaust is a touchstone in my life, a place to which I cannot avoid returning because there is no understanding it and I am not capable of abandoning the quest.

    Artworks: Witness and Legacy

    The Jews of Prague

    The Jews of Prague #13,1992 Photos, acrylic, lead on canvas
    10 x 8

    Against a black background, Erony shows aspects of the famous Jewish cemetary in Prague. The darkness of the photo suggests the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust.

    Holocaust

    Holocaust #6,1990 Photos, acrylic, lead on canvas
    11 x 14

    Holocaust #6 shows the electric fence and watchtowers of Auschwitz, built according to building commission requirements from Berlin, which had to coincide with zoning codes. A sense of claustrophobia and confinement pervades this mixed media work.

    Memorial to the Jews of Lodz

    Memorial to the Jews of Lodz #2, 1990 Found Hebrew text, acrylic, lead on canvas
    14 x 11

    Erony's work is a meditation on the absence of Jews in contemporary Europe. In this multi-media work, the Hebrew text was taken from prayer books burned in a fire in the Lodz, Poland synagogue.

    The Jews of Lodz

    The Jews of Lodz #2,1990 (detail) Found Hebrew text, acrylic, lead on canvas
    14 x 11

    Lodz was the second largest ghetto in Europe after Warsaw, and the last major ghetto to be liquidated. The artist found the use burned Hebrew prayer books to be important in commemorating the absence of Jews.

    Lodz and cracow

    Lodz and Cracow #13, 1991 Photos, mixed media on canvas
    10 x 8

    Jewish life in both Lodz and Cracow was virtually eliminated by the Holocaust. Therefore, the only Jews on can now find in these cities are in the cemetaries. The artist's darkly constucted works and heavy overlay of paint suggests the darkness of this era, and perhaps the Jewish future.

    Holocaust

    Holocaust #15,1992 Photos, acrylic, lead on canvas
    12 x 9

    Erony constructs a mixed media work with multiple images: an underground mine for slave labor? Train tracks for the entry to Auschwitz-Birkenau? The guides for bodies being pushed into the crematorium? While using photo images, the artist specifically avoids trivializing the event by manipulating them so that they appear as unique artistic achievements.

    Holocaust

    Holocaust #5,1992 Photos, acrylic, lead on canvas
    11 x 14

    Holocaust #5 suggests the darkness and cold technology that was part of the Auschwitz experience. Images of tracks and barracks pervade the work, without color except black, white, and grey. The image, however, does not come from the period of the destruction, but how the camp appears now.

    The Building of the Temple

    The Building of the Temple,1993 Xerox transfer on canvas
    44 x 44

    The Building of the Temple is a reflection on the historic Jewish and Zionist wish to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple, destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 A.D. Here, the new "temple" is built on Jewish graves. In addition to a reference to Kakfa, the "temple" refers to the building of Auschwitz by Rudolph Hoss, Auschwitz commandant, who was tried in Warsaw in 1946 and condemned to death for killing two million people.

    Page updated 2013.