DescriptionIn Vilnius, Lithuania we visited a restaurant that stood in front of the area that once housed the old synagogue. One evening the owner told us that when renovating the space, they discovered a tunnel that ran from the old synagogue, underneath the restaurant and on to what what was once the ghetto gates. The proprietor of the restaurant showed us the gate to the tunnel. As we stood under the starry night sky we could almost imagine the synagogue that once stood there.She also shared with us a story about an elderly man who came to the restaurant one day. He stood in front of the restaurant for a long time and then came in and asked if he could sit in a particular room, one where one wall is filled with a rack of wine bottles. He looked distressed as he sat there and she asked if she could get him some coffee. He turned to her and said, “This used to be my bedroom”. He had lived in that building when it was part of the ghetto with his mother and sisters. Yet another story she shared with us was about when they were renovating the space late at night. They often felt and saw a presence which she felt was benign, as if it were children. She had learned that the coal chute was often a hiding place for children during the ghetto when hiding successfully meant another day of life. As we left we had told her that if she felt the presence again she should say, “Shalom Aleichem” which means “Peace be with you”.All of those stories are reflected in my painting titled “Shalom Aleichem”. In this painting an old man is the central figure. I based the painting on an elder Lithuanian man who was attending the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Behind him are circles within circles signifying the wine rack which gradually melts into a starry night sky. Above him is the gate to the tunnel with the tunnel leading from its lower left corner in the direction of the ghetto gates. A chute with the suggestion of a child flows into it, perhaps a recollection of the old man, perhaps a ghost
Susan Weinberg, Minneapolis Member Since April 2010 Artist Statement As both a genealogist and an artist, much of my work has focused on family and cultural history. My Eastern Europe series is composed of paintings based on travels in LIthuania and the surrounding Baltic States. I frequently incorporate Yiddish into my paintings as it ties to my cultural roots. My Eastern Europe series deals with the Holocaust, the traces of the Jewish community that remain and the stories that I learned in my travels.
My work also includes a series based on China and earlier works of reflected images. While earlier work is largely figurative, my more recent work is moving into semi-abstract imagery.