Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Disturbing Art- Ashley Scully

Thursday March 14, 2013

Marian Kolodziej is a Polish Catholic who used art to give testimony to the horrors of Auschwitz and of the world today, and whose body of work provides a testament to suffering and “man’s inhumanity to man.”
Marian was on one of the first transports to enter Auschwitz. His prison number was 432. He survived and never spoke of his experience for 50 years. After a serious stroke in 1993, he began rehabilitation by doing pencil drawings depicting the experiences that he and others endured in the concentration camp. These drawings, in their skeletal detail, are a gripping depiction of the pain, death, and suffering of the camp. He shows the starvation of Jews and the Nazis’ abuse on Jewish prisoners. While most of the drawings represent the memories of his hellish experiences in Auschwitz, some tell stories of small acts of kindness and dignity. An example is the picture he has of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe holding a dying Jew in his arms. Marian’s story of life before, during, and after Auschwitz are a testament to the human spirit. Even in some of the most gruesome pictures, there is a small depiction of light or a crucifix-symbolizing faith, hope, and the presence of God. Marian’s drawings, which he called The Labyrinth, fill the large basement of a church near Auschwitz and draw visitors into the nightmarish trauma of the holocaust. 

“This is not an exhibition, nor art. These are not pictures. These are words locked in drawings…I propose a journey by way of this labyrinth marked by the experience of the fabric of death…It is a rendering of honor to all those who have vanished in ashes.” -Marian Kolodziej

In The Labyrinth, Marian takes the audience on a journey through his drawings and art installations. Through The Labyrinth, we explored the memories and nightmares of a man, who like so many others buried experiences deep within. Marian was in the same roll call and cell block as Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, who voluntarily took the place of a prisoner condemned to death and was later executed. This self-less act became legendary in Auschwitz and inspired the entire camp---somehow an act of love and courage stood as a testament to good in the face of overwhelming evil. Marian’s numerous drawings of his friend Kolbe are stark and iconographic. Kolbe is now a saint in the Catholic Church.

In my opinion, Marian’s artwork is brilliant and disturbing. I cannot imagine having those horrific images in my head. I wonder if survivors have similar images come to mind when they share their experiences of the camps to others. I learned that after his stroke, Marian spent 15 years sketching pictures. He was determined to put on paper every image, every scene, and every face that he recalls from the camp. He was so determined that his friends and loved ones worried that Marian would suffer another stroke from the stress of creating his artwork. The Labyrinth showed me the trauma that survivors suffer after their experiences in the Shoah. I admire Marian for his artwork- I cannot imagine how difficult it was for him to spend another 15 years reliving his experiences in the Shoah; and it was done for people like me who wish to educate themselves about the Shoah. Thank you Marian.


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