“Reflection of Dignity”
– These words echo throughout the whole Mirrors, an exhibit of six large format portraits by artist Marc Dennis and complementing videos, by filmmaker Liron Unreich, of the faces, voices and stories of six Holocaust survivors. The exhibit hall is divided into 6 equally sized and connected chambers where each video and painted portrait reflect each other. Centered around the potency of dialogue between the past and present, silence and sound, the exhibit aims to transport, enlighten and inform, serving as a modern day memorial while offering an evocative and contemporary approach to the conventions of Holocaust and genocide documentary.
Mirrors employs the spirit of reflection to capture images and fleeting moments through painted and video portraits that beckon the viewer to face those who faced history, survived and lived beyond our imagination. The paintings and videos serve not only to reflect one another in scope and dimensions but also that of the viewer, who is given the opportunity to consider his/her own understanding of self under the watchful gaze and voice of the survivor. The exhibition in its entirety also serves as a looking glass into issues of personal history, memory and perception — reminding us of how history affects our lives as well as how our lives compose history.
The six, large format paintings of each survivor’s face pulse with life-like candor. Measuring approximately 60w x 36w inches, they are painted in full color, with extraordinary attention to detail, delineating each wrinkle, line, and tone. Each survivor looks directly out from the plane of the canvas, their eyes nearly reflecting the viewers themselves. Emotions are revealed in every brush stroke: loss, anger, tempered joy and dignity. Without further context, the viewer connects with the survivor, transcends the surface of the canvas, and calls upon the experience of the individual, and our humanity.
Juxtaposed with the paintings are the video portraits, reflecting the painted canvases both in size, composition, and detail. They appear silent at first but become audible as the viewer approaches the projection: the survivor’s voice grows clearer and stronger while telling their story. A trembling lip, a raspy voice, and a sparkle in the eyes begin to entrance the viewer and enhance the narrative. With a few carefully chosen words and facial gestures the videos create a sense familiarity, one which combined with the infinite intimacy of the paintings, forms a unique art experience which tells a personal narrative of a horrific past, a triumphant present and an honorable future.
Mirrors is a monument for the living, a remembrance for those who will soon be taken by time, and a memorial to those who perished. Our project recognizes that we are at a crossroads of history, one at which the lives of those who are still with us must be captured, contextualized and reflected for future generations whose gaze has yet to look into this mirror — with the dignity of respect for those who not only survived, but lived.