Breast Cancer Answers Art Gallery

HOLOCAUST

I began this painting in class in '78.
From that autumn until the next spring it changed until
Only the breasts from the original imagery were left.
For some reason that was the part I liked best--the breasts.
I just couldn't cut them out.
I liked their surface texture, their shape.
The assignment was to tear shapes, pin them to the canvas,
Spray around them, pull off the shapes and begin to search for
Otherworldly creatures, a la Tamayo, that would remind one of,
But not quite be, human forms or a reference of the human condition.
So I built the painting around the breasts
Not knowing that the theme of destructive evil would evolve
As the painting did.
The process became one of painting repeated additions and subtractions
Until I found the summation in imagery I could not let go.
When the ghostly skull-like figure appeared it haunted me into
Keeping it and adding the structure behind it and the open niche
With repeated skull called forth the memory of the ovens
And the title.

Eerily, I look back at that early student piece
Finding new meaning in it with my mastectomies.
The Damocles sword sliced off my left breast ten years
After I painted that one on a figure who seemed oblivious
To the possibility that her left breast was almost an appendage
That is separating from the body.
The right hangs precariously as if
It, too, could slip away.
Perhaps my subconscious knew already
That within my breasts a force for chaos
Had begun to grow cells that wanted
To take over control of that territory,
Create an epidemic of destruction
That would become a holocaust in my mind.
The same mind that may have understood something was brewing
Ended up stewing over my role in this:
Creator or a bystander or intervener
In formation and eradication--my mind was able to
Cause destruction more debilitating than my cancer.

Mixed Media
© 1992, Betsy Noorzay

I began to write Holocaust about the content of the painting. The painting was about that which we identify in history as The Holocaust. It is also about the personal responsibility we all have in making history, in making our lives. In that sense the painting may also document my personal history and responsibility on levels not consciously apparent to me at the time the piece was made.


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