The Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery of the College of St. Elizabeth, in Morristown, NJ, recently opened its fall exhibition, Held Against Their Will. The exhibition, curated by Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D., Director of the gallery and Chairperson of the Art and Music Programs at the college, is timed to coordinate with the annual Week of Holocaust Remembrance. The exhibition is sensitive, stunning and heartbreakingly beautiful.
Works by 13 accomplished artists bring to viewers not only images, but emotions, questions, and perhaps the possibilities of answers about injustices, imprisonments and events even more unimaginable that, sadly, happen in our world to this day. Issues of race, religion, gender, national origin, and political beliefs are addressed in paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and a variety of other media. Art speaks in a language that is sometimes both more direct and more obscure than words. The eye and the heart are often captured simultaneously by the poignant, difficult, but always moving works of art chosen by Dr. Butera for this exhibition.
Kyomi Baird, Bound, 2010, Digital photograph, 43 x 36”
Truths can be stated through abstraction such as in Bob Ricciotti's A Fractured Mind and Kyomi Baird's powerful, elegiac photograph, Bound, which to some extent resembles the earth and suggests the universality and commonality of mankind's struggle for freedom.
Several works speak to the idea of being held by history, attitudes and society, as in Lisa Westheimer's assemblage, War Money. Slavery and racial injustice are the subject of paintings by Len Merlo, and Merlo and Neal Korn, as well as Aileen Bassis' book, Free Women.
Gender can harbor its own inequality. Female eyes peer out from behind a separation composed of words, lines, and barricades, both visual and conceptual, all glossed over in happy colors in Wayne Roth's Twice.
Images of political imprisonment are found in Roger Shimoura's prints, Sue Zwick's photographs and Daniel Heyman's portraits joined with oral histories.
Diana Kurz, Fence #3, 1993,Oil on canvas, 58 x 44"
Helen Karr and Diana Kurz present works which deal with memories of the Holocaust. Paintings of victims, sometimes family members, lost or traumatized in Nazi camps, are among the most vividly realistic works in the exhibition.
Hernando Rico Sanchez, Un Secuestro II (A Kidnapped Victim II), 2006, Glass, plaster cast with bronze patina and iron links, 11 1/2 x 12 x 2”
Finally, a pair of human ankles, shackled and cuffed, in a powerful sculpture by Hernando Rico Sanchez, Un Sequestro II, both remind and warn us that the line of human bondage is almost without end, both in humanity's past, and with the possibility of continuing, the same way, into the future.
As Dr. Butera notes, “Each artist uses different means and various incidents to reveal man's inhumanity to other men, women and children. The show was created to address prior discrimination, illegal restraint, kidnapping, torture, murder and genocide, events that still continue throughout the world today.”
The exhibition is a moving reminder and a cautionary message about history, power, oppression and cruelty. As the poet John Keats wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." The purpose of this compelling exhibition, so thoughtfully and elegantly designed by curator, Butera, is truth.
The works selected and presented by Dr. Virginia Fabbri Butera in Held Against Our Will, which are stark and heartrending in their honesty, are not always easy to look at, but having seen, they are impossible to turn your back on.
On November 11, Held Against Their Will will be open for viewing from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, prior to the 7:30 program in honor of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. This program will be held in Dolan Performance Hall in Annunciation Center and will feature speakers, Steven D. Smith, Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation, and Pinchas Gutter, Holocaust Survivor (Poland) who will discuss “New Dimensions in Survivor Testimony: The Hologram Project.” On November 12 at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm, Dr. Butera will give tours of the art exhibition in Maloney Art Gallery for the campus and the public as part of the Week of Holocaust Remembrance programming.