A GROUNDBREAKING ART EXHIBIT BY REMEMBER THE WOMEN INSTITUTE
Two artworks done inside Nazi concentration camps can be viewed at VIOLATED! Women in Holocaust and Genocide, Remember the Women Institute’s international art exhibition opening at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, 31 Mercer Street, SoHo, New York City, on Thursday evening, 6 PM, April 12, 2018, and running for a month. These two small drawings, created in secret, were borrowed from the Ghetto Fighters’ House, Israel.
The exhibition includes Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman’s Double Jeopardy (half-scale) from their Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light, as well as two works each by Holocaust survivor artist Boris Lurie and feminist artist Nancy Spero. Joining these internationally known names, there are artists from Israel, the United States, and other countries, including victims, their close relatives, witnesses, and concerned others. All of these important artworks on sexual violence during the Holocaust and later genocides are the artists’ poignant reactions to what women suffered. The representations about later genocides and ethnic cleansings in Bosnia, Darfur, Eritrea, Guatemala, Iraq, Nigeria, and Rwanda echo the horrors that some women experienced during the Holocaust.
This trailblazing exhibition includes 47 cutting-edge works on sexual violation by 30 American, Israeli, and other artists. They include (in alphabetical order): Rostan Agala, Ofri Akavia, Judy Chicago, Ayana Friedman, Regina José Galindo, Nechama Golan, Mitch Lewis, Shosh Kormosh, Judith Weinshall Liberman, Ella Liebermann-Shiber, Boris Lurie, Haim Maor, Naomi Markel, Anat Massad, Mary Mihelic, Dvora Morag, Nezhnie (Muriel Helfman), Halina Olomucki, Zeev Porath (Wilhelm Ochs), Rachel Roggel, Manasse Shingiro, Hana Shir, Li Shir, Nancy Spero, Linda Stein, Yocheved Weinfeld, Gil Yefman, Racheli Yosef, Safet Zec, and Dvora Zelichov.
The accompanying catalog and wall text provide background for the works of art, including artist statements about why they have dealt with this painful subject. An on-line virtual version of the exhibition and lesson plan are also planned. Educational events will be presented while the exhibition is being shown.
At a time when powerful men's sexual abuse of less powerful women is making daily headlines, this exhibition offers artistic representations of sexual violence with a much greater ratio of power to powerlessness--during the Holocaust and some later genocides. There were no conditions for a #MeToo movement for Holocaust survivors, and despite advances in technology and feminist ideology, this situation has not changed significantly for the victims of later genocides. The women were often murdered, and survivors were frequently silenced by their own unwarranted sense of shame. Those who spoke out were sometimes discouraged.
While there is documentation and testimony, sexual violence during the Holocaust has for decades mostly been covered up, denied, or ignored. Artistic representation is one way to raise awareness about this heinous component of the Holocaust, as well as later genocides. Artists depicting the Holocaust include four survivors, as well as second and third generation descendants of survivors, artists living outside of Europe at the time of the Holocaust, and others; artists portraying later genocides include survivors, witnesses, and others.
The earliest memoirs in the 1940s mentioned sexual violence during the Holocaust, but afterward the subject seemed to have almost disappeared. However, as proven in books, documentary films, interviews, and archived testimonies, various kinds of sexual violence were prevalent. These artworks commemorate and reflect upon this violence and serve to inform viewers about this missing part of history, encouraging empathy and shedding light on this heinous component of genocide. The exhibition reveals the past and confronts the present in order to include women’s stories in education for the future. The artists' representations cry out on behalf of the victims who were silenced or chose to be silent, and viewers are encouraged to use their own voices to let the messages of these artworks reverberate.
Dr. Batya Brutin is exhibition curator and Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel is exhibition coordinator, with Rebecca Pristoop, Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth, and Karen Shulman on the exhibition team. There is also an Honorary Committee, as well as institutional partners. This exhibition grows out of the first book on the subject, Sexual Violence against Jewish Women during the Holocaust (ed. Hedgepeth and Saidel, Brandeis University Press, co-published by Remember the Women Institute, 2010).
Exhibition Honorary Committee
The exhibition and catalog are being funded by tax-deductible grants to Remember the Women Institute, our 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to integrating women’s stories into history. We are indebted to The Schaina and Josephina Lurje Memorial Foundation, The Phyllis Backer Foundation, and The Five Millers Family Foundation, which provided major fiscal backing, as well as to many other donors who are recognized in the catalog.
For a virtual tour of the exhibition watch this video of VIOLATED! by Jeff F. Segall.
Exhibition Institutional Partners
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The Remember the Women Institute, 2018
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