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After training in painting, graphic design, photography and printmaking in London from 1965 to 1972 where Geoffrey Laurence received his L.C.A.D and B.A. in painting. He spent the next 20 years whilst also working freelance in the allied arts fields of illustration, fashion and interior design, concentrating on drawing and painting, working exclusively from life and specifically with the figure.
He attended the New York Academy in 1993, receiving his M.F.A. Cum Laude and relocated from New York City to Santa Fe in 1996. He started to explore his Jewish heritage and the theme of the holocaust in his work only in 1995, after receiving sudden definitive acknowledgement from his Mother that he was in fact Jewish which had been hidden from him as a child.
Since then he has continued to work with the figure and his ongoing ‘Holocaust Series’ and teaches painting, drawing and anatomy in New York, New Mexico, Florida and Washington State.
His work is currently represented by Altitude Fine Art in Santa Fe, John Pence gallery in San Francisco and Pacini Lubel gallery in Seattle.
It is hard, not to say impossible, to separate my search for identity as an artist and my identification with the facts of my Jewish ancestry. It appears that the search for identity is one of the fundamental endeavors of all Jews.From the events of this century, through the ghettos and exile of the last 3,000 years and from a God that seems so many times to have abandoned us, the need to question our existence within the culture at large is a central theme.
My parents, having been displaced from their homelands, brought me up in denial and extreme alienation. Both of my parents were born and spent their childhood in Breslau in Upper Silesia, now Poland. His father was a textile merchant and his mother’s family owned a large department store, which was eventually seized by the Nazis and never returned or recompensed. My mother’s father was an eminent surgeon, in charge of the large Jewish hospital in Breslau. His brother, an architect, was a member of the Bauhaus faculty and designed my grandparent’s house.
It was featured, at the time, in the magazine ‘Die Blaue buche’ and subsequently was seized by the Nazis and never returned or recompensed. Walter Gropius had urged him to join him in America but being a ‘good’ German; he elected to stay and ended his days in Riga concentration camp with his wife, leaving two small children. My father was sent to Sachsenhausen and then Dachau. His mother, father and sister committed suicide while he was in the camp. He appeared at the Nuremberg war trials as a witness and Steven Spielberg’s Shoa Foundation has recorded his testimony.
My mother was able to escape to England after Crystalnacht on the ‘kindertransport’ with no money or language to support her, while her parents and grandparents were sent to Terezin. Her own wartime experiences were, in many ways, as vicious as my father’s. Nearly all my relatives on both sides perished into the mountains of ash of the concentration camps of Europe.
My own childhood was dominated by contradiction. I was told that I was not Jewish. My father, while lecturing about the horrors that he and others went through, was consistently anti-Semitic and refused to answer the obvious questions that occurred to me about his background. My mother was unable to acknowledge her past to me fully until only two years ago. I was told not to emulate 'Jewish' traits. The intensity of fear and alienation that pervaded my childhood caused me to seek answers on my own.
Painting became a way for me to do that as a child and my questioning has continued to be a deepening thematic source. In the last six years I have taken it upon myself to acknowledge that I am indeed Jewish. I have embarked on a journey to find out exactly what being Jewish means for me. I started reading the texts of the Torah and the history of the Jewish people. I started to celebrate the festivals of Passover and Yom Kippur. I started to paint specific images that related to feelings of displacement and loss.I am driven, as if haunted by ghosts, to explore the themes of the holocaust in my work and feel that I am being asked to voice in some way the beings that were my uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins, who vanished without burial or farewell for simply being Jewish - like myself.