"In a Confined Silence” is a collection of photo transfers and computer image manipulations by self-taught artist Miriam Brysk, who served as a professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston and who now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The exhibit formally opens to the public at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 21 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006, in the Central Gallery at Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline St. in Houston’s Museum District. Admission is free.
Brysk will speak about her Holocaust experiences and her artwork during a free 45-minute public lecture at the Museum at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, in the Museum’s Herzstein Theater. A reception for Brysk will follow from 5 to 7 p.m.
Brysk was born in Warsaw, Poland in March 1935. After the Nazi occupation in 1939, she and her parents escaped to the town of Lida, but that city fell in 1941 and its Jews were herded into a ghetto. Most were killed, but she and her family survived until being rescued by Jewish partisans in 1942. Her father helped the Russian partisans to open a hospital in the nearby forest and eventually was awarded the Order of Lenin by the Russian government. They later fled to Italy to escape the Soviet invasion and finally arrived in America in February 1947.
Her childhood experiences entail many of the Holocaust stories of other survivors – that of a child separated from her parents, of life in the ghettos, of living in hiding and fear, of being a partisan in the resistance and of devoting her later life to remembering and retelling those experiences so that others may never have to endure them.
“My life, like my art, has been strongly influenced by my childhood experiences in the Nazi Holocaust,” said Brysk.
Her artwork on exhibit at the Houston museum was actually inspired by a 2002 trip to Eastern Europe during which she returned for the first time to the ghettos and camps of her childhood.
"I was haunted by the images of my lost family, while childhood fears re-emerged as frightening nightmares,” she recalls. “I was shaking in horror as I sobbed for the 6 million of my people who had so inhumanely and painfully perished. I felt a deep inner need to express their emotions and to restore to them their dignity as Jews.”
All of the pieces in the current exhibit began as small black-and-white photographs – some her own, some donated by friends and some archival images – each representing a real person, a Jew, who lived during the Holocaust.
“The images that you see in this exhibit are real. The people are real. They actually lived during the Holocaust,” she said. “This to me was very important to make the work authentic – not to sensationalize it, but to give these people the dignity of their lives.”
It took another two years to develop the 40-piece collection, of which almost two-thirds will be on view in Houston.
The photographs then were manipulated through a photocopying process, transferred with acetone onto watercolor papers, scanned into computer images, overlaid with multiple layers of color and texture, and strengthened by the addition of other elements of Holocaust history. The finished pieces were printed in limited editions of 50 each on museum-quality rag paper or canvas.
Brysk received her doctorate from Columbia University and spent most of her career as a professor in the departments of dermatology; human biological chemistry and genetics; and microbiology and immunology at UTMB. She moved to Michigan in May 2001.
Her artwork has appeared previously at museums in Michigan, Ohio and Florida, and she is now working on a book about her story entitled “Under Shadows of Trees.”
The current exhibit is presented in cooperation with Continental Airlines.
Also at Holocaust Museum Houston through Sept. 17 is “Survivors’ Journeys,” an exhibit that documents the successes of survivors who moved to Houston shortly after liberation through artifacts and photographs on loan from the survivors and their families.
“Survivors' Journeys” chronicles the lives of several Houston survivors, including Edith and Josef Mincberg; Bill Orlin; Al Marks; Leon Cooper; Wolf Finkelman; Glenn Bermann; Bill Morgan; Inge-Ruth Fletcher; Jacob and Rose Eisenstein; Stefi Altman; Ruth Brown; Morris and Linda Penn; Louise and Rubin Joskowitz; Sigmund, Sol, and Max Jucker; Walter Kase; Ruth Steinfeld; Lea Weems; Helen Colin; Charles Kurt and many others.
These individuals survived tragic experiences early in their lives – losing loved ones, being forced to hide their identities, suffering through concentration camps and death camps, and then waiting in displaced persons camps for the chance at a new life. Yet, those who survived and came to America to begin anew came with a desire to put the past behind them and make up for the lost years of their lives.
“Survivors' Journeys” is underwritten by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also in cooperation with Continental Airlines.
Holocaust Museum Houston promotes awareness and educates the public of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and violence against the backdrop of the Holocaust by fostering remembrance, understanding and education.
Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston's Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about Holocaust Museum Houston, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.