University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

  • Aaron Morgan

    Aaron Morgan

    About the Artist

    Art, like his Jewish heritage, has always been at the core of Aaron Morgan’s being.  A native New Yorker, he was trained at the High School of Art & Design.  Morgan attended Pratt Institute and is a graduate of the Cooper Union.  He is a member of the Jewish Art Salon, the American Guild of Judaic Artists, the Pastel Society of America, the Connecticut Pastel Society, the Art Council of Port Washington and the Huntington Art Council.

    Morgan traces his Jewish roots far back before his father changed the family name in 1927 from Morgenstern to Morgan.  He can trace his lineage back to 1788 and has records of each person dating back from his father to his multi-great-great grandfather, the great Hasidic master, Menachem-Mendel of Kotzk.  Like his illustrious ancestor, who spent his life searching for "truth," Morgan too is searching for truth; the difference is that he uses pencil and paper, or paint and canvas instead of books and prayer.

    Read complete biography: Aaron Morgan (PDF)

    Visit the artist's website.

    About the Mound Series

    The Mound Series is based on the Hassidic tale of the 36 hidden Tzaddikim.

    In Kabbalistic folklore, the thirty-six hidden ones have the potential to save the world:  they appear when they are needed, and one of them might be the Messiah.  Jews began to get familiar with them, referring to them in Yiddish as the "lamed vov-niks" (lamed vov is Hebrew for thirty six), and seeing them everywhere in the anonymous acts of good people who rise to great acts in difficult circumstances.  In each generation, we look for them everywhere:  the wise menon whose shoulders the world rests.

    In almost all the works of art, thirty-five of the thirty-six figures are represented. One is not. T he others — gone, buried, ashes.  One escapes; one of the thirty-six survives . . . The Jewish people survive!

    Holocaust Menorah

    Holocaust menorahThis ceramic piece, completed in March 2011, is one I always wanted to do.  It is not part of the Mound Series, but is important for this body of work. In my early sketches the people were more abstract but as I worked on it I realized the Holocaust is about people. It was designed by men, carried out by men and women and perpetrated on men, women and children.

    In this Menorah I have three men and three women; three young people and three older people. The luggage in the front shows the major European countries and how many Jews died in each of them. In the back are three columns in the shape of the electrified fence at Auschwitz. The three columns combined form the Hebrew letter “Shin.” It is the letter used on the exterior of a Mezuzah, It is symbolic of one of the names of G_d, and is also a symbol for the priestly blessing.

    Ceramic on Base: 25” tall x 17" wide x 16" deep

     



    Dedication

    I dedicate the Mound Series to those who died in the Holocaust and have no one to remember or say “Kaddish” for them.  This work is a visual prayer for those that died at the hands of the Nazis during the Shoah.  The Mound Series is my response to my artistic reawakening to the history of my people.  It is not about showing the horrors that occurred in the past; it is not just saying "Never Again;" it is not about my journey or my anger as a response to the Holocaust; it is about my responsibility to my people, my community, my family, my children and mostly to my grandchildren, to retell the story of the Holocaust.

    Once again, as in almost every generation, tyrants have tried to destroy the Jewish people, and yet we survive.  This series is my Haggadah.  My telling of the story of our horrific, unimaginable plight prepared for future generations. L’Dor V’Dor, from generation to generation.

    "I see myself in the mounds."

    If this were a different time, or another place, it would be me in those mounds of starving or dead humanity.  I see myself in the Mound paintings!  I see myself huddled with my wife and generations of my family and extended family, together with my friends and my neighbors.  They would have been the people next to me, locked in a cattle car with me, transported to a concentration camp with me, selected while being next to me and they would have worked or died being dehumanized and destroyed together with me.

    Mound Series Art Gallery


    Auschwitz — Where is my family?
    Mixed media collage: 36"x24"

    In the documentary film Paper Clips, a survivor told the story of how as a child he asked one of the Nazi guards where his mother and sister were taken.  The guard looked at the smoke above the crematoriums and smiled.

     

    The final composition has the serenity of what the public sees today:  a landscape of beauty.  Yet its memories are those of people buried below the ground.


    Blue Tattoo
    Mixed media collage: 36"x28"

    On television we view shows like "Inked" and see the glorification of tattoos.  To Jews tattoos mean something else.  I remember my mother's friend Tina with the numbers on her arm.  We looked as curious children do, but we were told: "Never ask!" I recently saw a man in the hospital, while in the room all I could focus on was his crying in pain and the blue numbers tattooed on his arm.  He was alone; no family and no friends, and yet those numbers made him part of my extended family

    In Blue Tattoo many symbols were used to complete the work; the poem "Tattoo" by Don Barnard, the poet laureate of Birmingham, England; the Holocaust number of Elie Wiesel; and the symbolic tattered stripes of a uniform.

     


    The Yellow Star
    Ink and acrylic on watercolor paper: 30"x30"

    Elie Wiesel's Night was the inspiration for this painting.  Wiesel's father is trying to convince young Elie that the new laws are not so terrible for the Jews.  He says to his son: "The yellow star?  Oh well, what of it?  You don’t die from it..."  The next line is Wiesel's later thoughts — "Poor father! Of what then did you die?"

     


    Hatikvah
    Acrylic on canvas: 24"x48"

    Hatikvah means Hope. It is the national anthem of The State of Israel.

    In Hatikvah the survivors of the Holocaust are turned into living Israeli figures.  By using the negative image on the bottom, the barely alive emaciated figures from above, have been turned into…soldiers, farmers, Hasidim, students, a female figure holding a baby, a tank, and architecture including the Western Wall.

    Out of the despair and horror of the Holocaust the State of Israel was created.

     


    The Face of the Holocaust
    Acrylic on canvas: 36"x36"

    If you ask anyone to associate one face with the victims of the Holocaust, invariably it would be Anne Frank.

    The "mound" is faceless bodies heaped together, one on top of the other.  It represents the six million Jews, of which two million were children.  Many of the figures shown in the painting could easily have been Anne Frank.

     

    Batya Brutin, well- know Israeli curator of Holocaust memorial art, invited AaronMorgan to exhibit his paintingThe Face of the Holocaust in Budapest. The exhibit marked what would have been Anne Frank’s 80th birthday on June 12th 2009.

     


    Deportation — Alone in a Crowd
    Acrylic on canvas: 40"x30"

    All crowded together, no physical space and yet they were alone with their thoughts and fears. Alone in a crowd.

    The artist did not add hardware or locks on the doors.  The Germans closed the doors, but the rest of the world had keys and not one country or world leader tried to open them.

     


    The Face of Silence and Apathy
    Ceramic on wood: 28"x12"

    The reflection of all the "mounds" should, and is, embedded on the face of every group that stood-by knowing what was happening under the Nazi regime in Europe.  I find it difficult to fathom a world that can stand by and let it happen. I find it more difficult to understand that it is happening again in place like Darfur and once again the world community does nothing.


    REMEMBER — ZACHOR
    Computer generated art on fine water color paper: 28"x33"

     

    The Hebrew word Zachor (Hebrew for remember) is hidden between the "mound" of figures and the yellow star Jews were forced to wear.  As in real history, the word - remember - unfortunately seems to fade over time.

     

    Today, people like Mel Gibson, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others remind us that they simply don't believe the horrific acts of the Holocaust actually happened, or like former President Jimmy Carter believes that it is "time to get over it."


    Kaddish for the Forgotten
    Computer generated art: framed—16"x18"

    Having lost almost all of my father’s family during the Holocaust, at Yiskor times we always said Kaddish and lit a Yahrzeit candle for those who had no one left to do it for them.

    The haunting words of Kaddish are meant to be spoken aloud; as an artist, I always wanted mine to be seen as well.  My visual prayer is my way of insuring that this sacred prayer would exist in my family for generations to come.

     


    My mother was from Bialystok, my father from Lodz
    Computer generated art: approx 30"x40"

    This piece is very personal to me.  When I saw a Holocaust map of Poland, it was the first time that I noticed that the Treblinka death camp was situated between Bialystok, my mother's place of birth, and Lodz, my father’s.  The camps located in Poland (Auschwitz, Belzek, Chelmno, Majdenek, Sobibor and Treblinka) were all designated as "Death Camps" not "Concentration Camps."  Hitler knew exactly what he wanted to do with Polish Jewry.

    I made sketches and worked on the photo montage from family images.  Writing the names of the death camps and my parents' birthplaces had a profound effect on me.  Thank God they left.

    I recreated the "mound" to fit into the map of Poland, added the cities, camps and tied them all together with a quote by the Nazi Governor of Poland.  When I first read his quote; "All I ask of the Jews is for them to disappear,” the quote told me that I had to ghost the mound figures; they had to partially disappear.  3.3 million Jews disappeared from Poland alone.

     


    Remember Us
    Computer generated art on fine water color paper: 38"x38"

    This iconic photo, perhaps the most famous of the Holocaust, is combined with the "mound" and a section of a poem by Barbara Sonek.