Art from Ashes Is a Triumph of the Spirit

By Fields, Suzanne | Insight on the News, May 24, 1993 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Art from Ashes Is a Triumph of the Spirit


Fields, Suzanne, Insight on the News


Like politics, tragedy is local. It cuts to the heart, to the soul of thought, especially when it wears the face of a friend.

And so it is with Alice Lok Cahana. Alice is a survivor of Auschwitz. She is like the Ancient Mariner, who has a story of awesome horror. I am the wedding guest who must hear every word of her tale as she bears witness.

Alice is an artist whose paintings are on exhibit at the Klutznick Museum of B'nai B'rith, coinciding with the April dedication of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Like the phoenix, she recreates life from fire, art from the ashes of experience.

Alice was 15 when the Nazis ordered her mother, her sister, Edith, 17, and two younger brothers into the marketplace of Sarvar, a small town in Hungary 120 miles from Budapest, where her father had a large carpet weaving factory.

Her paintings are filled with empty windows testifying to the silent observers, "friends" and neighbors, who watched the Jews march toward the cattle cars and said nothing.

"No one came out from the houses, no one demonstrated or screamed or protested," she says. "It was just another ordinary day."

When she passed her own house, the "new owners" were already occupying it. Her dog charged out of the house, barking. "I pleaded with the dog silently to go away."

Her paintings are filled with images of jagged railroad tracks leading to a blackened sky, oppressed with tattooed numbers rather than shimmering with stars, fusing experience and metaphor, the journey of life and the rigidity of death. Art is also distilled emotion, angry charred surfaces craving beauty. Letters from the alphabet penetrate a canvas, letters that once made up the names of victims, letters that once formed the rhythms for religious prayers. A tiny shape intersects one of the railroad tracks. It's a child's shoe. Art imitates brutal reality. Across town in the Holocaust museum, an exhibition of 4,000 shoes bears witness to those who walked to the gas chambers. James Ingo Freed, architect of the museum, visited Auschwitz and, as he tramped through the mud of the concentration camp, the soles of his shoes picked up bits of human bone.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Art from Ashes Is a Triumph of the Spirit
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?