Good Morning Fellow Wordmongers,
Things have been a bit hectic this week and really don’t have time to write anything remotely interesting. So I went to the 2013 archives and found a true story of being censored by the ‘Center for Judaic Studies’ located on the Denver University campus. I was pressured to change the title of my first exhibition in 34 years! Below is a letter primarily directed at a PhD that should have known better. Have a great weekend!
Dear Center for Judaic Studies,
I have been a life time supporter of Israel. The ongoing travails of defending its autonomy and right to exist is a compelling story particularly since Israel is surrounded by countries hell bent on their destruction. Like most civilized people I too am confounded as to how the systematic murder of 6 million Jews could have been tolerated by the German people…but it was.
After a 34 year hiatus from art/sculpture my son Neil was able to persuade me to explore the idea of returning to it. My children are grown and I now have more time to spend on my passion so I began again in earnest. After two years of hard work and focus, I was invited to exhibit my work to which I excitedly agreed. Last Friday I was in heaven…surrounded by my work talking about my imagery as well as its message. Most audible comments were flattering or otherwise supportive. That said I’m not naïve enough to believe everyone liked my efforts because that’s not how it works. All I can hope for is to get people to think and take away something from it. This normally happens after they’ve viewed the work and put the exhibit’s title into context.
Earlier this week the gallery received a letter from one of your own, a Ms. Pessin. In a letter I considered laden with mock sincerity, Pessin was troubled by my use of the word ‘Holocaust’ and wanted to have a dialog (mentioning it three or four times I might add) assuring us it was not to confront. The censored title in question was “The Cactus Hill Holocaust…..Antiquity meets Monty Python.” What a sinister title eh? I’m sure Pessin believed anti-Semitism was present. According to Pessin by using the word ‘Holocaust’ I offended and sent Survivors of the Holocaust into a rage simply for my exhibit title. In a knee jerk reaction (God forbid I offend the Jewish Community) I changed the title and removed Holocaust from it. Having said this, I now regret that decision.
How does the mention of a single word evoke sleepless nights, depression, outrage, or fear? I get pretty nervous by the word ‘Taxes’ but has yet to send me over the edge. What puzzles me is Pessin felt compelled to contact the gallery and explain they’ve unwittingly supported an artist in offending ‘Survivors’ living in the Denver area, many of which are also patrons. A thinly disguised threat to be sure. She condescendingly offered to ‘educate’ me so this egregious act of insensitivity never happens again. She got what she wanted for now, but because of her self-absorbed letter I’m now predisposed to do it again….but on a much grander scale. For the two or three of you still following along here’s why…
Mel Brooks’ Opus “The Producers”……“Springtime for Hitler” one of the longest running Broadway plays ever–opened to mixed reviews by critics who mind you are paid to critique, but don’t remember hearing anything about the Survivors being traumatized by the mention of Hitler, author of The Holocaust. Yet my use of the word offended the ‘Survivors?’ Your organization and Pessin in particular would censor my title choice without so much as viewing the work? This is pure and simple demagoguery! Does CJS honestly believe the Survivors OWN the word? They must think so…but the English root for the word was established mid-13th century! Throughout recorded history genocide of peoples of many races has been documented. I don’t need the ‘Survivors’ permission to use the word Holocaust!
Assuming Ms. Pessin’s is Jewish her intolerance toward free expression is sadly hypocritical. The fact she’s an educator makes it even more disturbing. Enlightened teachers understand the value of unencumbered expression and should cherish as well as promote it. Stay tuned…..Holocaust III is coming to a gallery near you!
P.S. Pessin certainly had no problem dishing it out…but can she take it? Post it.