Abraham Joshua Heschel, in writing about the Jews of the shtetl ( eastern European Jewish communities) concludes that ‘this was the golden period in Jewish history, in the history of the Jewish soul.’ He refers to the inner strength, the tenacity, the spirit of these people. Most had little money----all strove to educate their children.
Their lives centered around their faith and ritualistic practice. Men studied in ‘shtieblach’----little prayer houses that existed throughout the communities. They endeavored to uphold the traditions of their ancestors.
It is the Jews of the shtetl, the destroyed communities of Eastern Europe that are the focal point of my art. I do this for two reasons:
1. I believe there is much to be learned from the people who inhabited these communities: about the significance of spirit in their lives; about how they coped with constant oppression from outside sources. They led insular lives----with good reason. It was too dangerous to venture beyond the shtetl. Nevertheless, despite the fears and dangers that existed, they were still able to dress up and pose for the camera. Was it a sham? I prefer to call it resistance----resistance to generations of tyranny and wandering. For the most part, they were a proud people who creatively found ways to deal with the pathos of their lives. Through my portrayal of them, I strive to show their spirit, their inner strength, their dignity. I create worlds that are often in direct juxtaposition to harsher images such as the mass grave in Kremenets, Ukraine, my ancestral home where my relatives are buried. It is the memory of these people and their daily lives that I wish to honor and preserve.
2. My second reason for utilizing this imagery in my art has to do with my passion for reconciliation with my Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters…… those of us who descend from the Abrahamic tradition. I utilize the imagery of the shtetl to remind my viewer that we must not only keep alive its memory in order to not repeat the horrors of the past, but that we must come together. We must learn about and from each other. We must stand up for each other. We must respect each other and our individual faith traditions. In that vein, I often include symbolic and traditional ritualistic imagery in the work. I have always been inspired by symbolic imagery and have discovered that one can create one’s own symbolic vocabulary. My intention is always to leave room for my viewer to finish the story—to perhaps place him/herself into the picture.
The message that I strive to convey through my art is simple: we must walk hand in hand into the future----together.
carolyn h. manosevitz. january, 2014. tevet, 5774.
h. manosevitz studio
p.o. box 3705 basalt, co.81621