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August 09, 2012 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-08-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Suzanne Chessler

Contributing Writer


ne image lingers in the mind of
historical archivist Mike Smith
since previewing the touring
exhibit "Forbidden Art:'
The drawing, photographed for the
exhibit to protect the original from dam-
age, presents a man looking straight ahead
as if connecting with any viewer.
It appears among 20 panels of pho-
tographed works completed by concen-
tration camp prisoners at Auschwitz,
Buchenwald and Ravensbruck and soon
will be seen in free displays planned for
Orchard Lake and Detroit.
"I thought to myself, `What a face —
sad and showing all the wear and stress
of being in the camp yet still having a
spark of life and determination [corn-
ing across in] his eyes," explains Smith,
Jewish community archivist at Wayne State
University's Walter P. Reuther Library and
coordinator of the exhibit's stop in Detroit.
"'Forbidden Art' is, in its essence, a cel-
ebration of the human spirit, and it is an
honor that Wayne State was selected as one
of the chosen venues in the United States.
While imprisoned in horrible conditions
by the brutal Nazi regime, artists contin-
ued to produce the works of art that are
represented in this exhibit:'
The display, introducing photographs
of artwork made from 1940-45 and main-
tained by Poland's Auschwitz-Birkenau
State Museum (A-BSM), will be on view
Aug. 17-Sept. 1 at the Polish Mission
in Orchard Lake and Sept. 7-28 at St.
Andrew's on the Wayne State campus in
Detroit, where there will be an opening
reception 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday Sept. 6.

"Forbidden Art," touring to raise aware-
ness of the Holocaust among American
audiences, gives a sense of graphic and
three-dimensional pieces held in a collec-
tion of more than 6,000 works.
A detailed narrative, with historical
commentary and excerpts from archival
accounts, accompanies each piece so that
viewers can experience a deeper con-
nection with the imprisoned artists who
labored on the items being displayed.
Before the tour, the exhibit was shown at
the Polish museum.
"It's amazing that under these condi-
tions people did not give up:' says Smith,
who has toured Auschwitz. "Working on
the art could have gotten these people
executed, and they did it and hid it away
so we have this inside view of the horrible
nature of what was going on:'
Smith worked closely with Marcin
Chumiecki, director of the Polish Mission,
in making tour arrangements with Piotr
M.A. Cywinski, director of the A-BSM. The
Michigan exhibition spaces were chosen
because of earlier cultural exchanges
among the three men.
From Michigan, "Forbidden Art" will
travel to Chicago and Washington, D.C., in
a limited number of stops.
"The memory is carried in the words
of the survivors, but it is also stored in
the objects remaining after Auschwitz;'
Cywinski says. "These are two faces of the
same authenticity."
"Forbidden Art" is divided into two
parts. One portrays the reality of the
camps — the plights of the inmates,
scenes from daily experiences and por-
traits of the prisoners. A second section
offers insight into the escape from camp
reality — caricatures, albums containing

greetings and fairy tales prisoners devel-
oped for their children.
While most of the photographs show
works of graphic art, there also are such
items as a bracelet with scenes depicted
on it, found near the gas chamber on the
Auschwitz II-Birkenau grounds; a crucifix;
and a miniature figure of a devil made
from tape and a piece of wire, which was
used by prisoners for smuggling corre-
Dora Apel, associate professor and W.
Hawkins Ferry endowed chair in modern
and contemporary art history at Wayne,
has not seen this exhibit but she has done
extensive research in Holocaust art and
has written the book Memory Effects:
The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary
"It's extraordinary that people would
even find the time, the privacy, the materi-
als and the condition of mind to create
art under such horrific circumstances:'
Apel says. "That can only be done with the
greatest sense of conviction."
Apel is impressed with the creativity
shown in coming up with artistic materi-
als. Drawings, for example, could be made
from charred bits of wood as replacements
for charcoal. Sculpture could be formed
with found materials using handmade
The photographs in the exhibition are
the work of Michal Dziewulski.
An objective for currently touring the
exhibit to school settings is to educate
younger generations about the Holocaust
as the number of survivors diminishes.
"The forms of human production
in 'Forbidden Art' provide important
insight into human experience," Apel says.
"They represent release and escape."

Twenty panels of photographed works
completed by concentration camp
prisoners will be on display.

the book into a movie, and it won another
Peabody and was nominated for an Oscar.
Rosenman's film Paragraph 175 explores
experiences of gays in the Holocaust.
"From 2001-2007,1 taught a master
class in creative film producing under
the auspices of the Jewish Federation of
Greater Los Angeles;' Rosenman says.
"I taught it at Tel Aviv University for two
weeks every June.
"I eventually took that curriculum, added

my war stories from the 30-some movies
that I made and created my seminar about
pitching, packaging and financing movies."
The producer's current projects include
the development of a stage version of
Sparkle and the remake of an Israeli come-
dic movie, A Matter of Size, which is about
a sumo wrestler. Away from work, he
shares his California home with a dog and
bird and watches films just for fun.
Rosenman, an avid Zionist who plans

eventually to retire in Israel, currently
senses a strong connection to Detroit with
the release of Sparkle even if his seminar
does not materialize in the area.
"I think Detroiters are going to love the
movie because it's all about the city," he
says."You can see Motown, and you can
feel it." ❑

"Forbidden Art" will be on view
Aug.17-Sept 1 at the Polish Mission
Galeria, 3535 Indian Trail, Orchard
Lake. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
For information, call (586) 201-
9401 or email jjprzewozniak@
The exhibit then will be Sept.
7-28 at St. Andrew's, 918 Ludington
Mall, on the campus of Wayne State
University in Detroit. Hours are 11
a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays and
noon-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. For
information, call (313) 577-5448 or
email ac2942@wayne.edu .

With A 'Sparkle' from page 29

Rosenman won an Oscar and Peabody
Award for the documentary Common
Threads: Stories From the Quilt, which fol-
lowed six people from the time of their
HIV infection until they were memorial-
ized through the sewn display.
One person profiled was Vito Russo, a
good friend of the producer and author of
The Celluloid Closet, a book covering the
history of gay and lesbian images in film.
Rosenman promised Russo he would turn


August 9 • 2012

Sparkle opens Friday, Aug. 17.

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