When traveling, one of my favorite things to do is to visit museums that house the work of artists from the specific countries that we are visiting. This is no easy task when on the go with my husband, aka Terrific Tax Attorney (TTA). TTA goes into these experiences looking as if he has swallowed a lemon whole. He breezes through each room to find the nearest bench so that he may sit and wait for me to finally finish looking at the work. As you can imagine, I move through what is shown in a more frantic manner. He looks so miserable that I don't want to torture him longer than necessary.
All that said, TTA joined me as we visited three museums during our last trip to Europe. He can be a good sport, and he even liked two of the three art venues.
Let's keep it a secret that the work that inspired and moved me the most wasn't housed in the walls of the venerable museums, but in other places instead. Being immersed in the culture and history of the places that we visited inspired me in ways that I am sure will manifest in my art in the future, even if I don't know how that inspiration will show itself.
Without further discussion, here are some examples of the most inspiring art that I saw:
These are Stumbling Stones or Stolpersteine. They are brass plaques on the ground outside of the last homes of choice of people who were deported and killed during the Holocaust. There are 70,000 Stumbling Stones throughout Europe to commemorate those who were murdered. The artist who first conceived of the idea of focusing on tragedies of individuals in this way is Gunter Demnig. He is still working on the art project that keeps him on the road for 300 days per year. I am so inspired by the dedication that it takes to continue with this meaningful art installation.
While visiting Regensburg, Germany, we were surprised to see Hebrew embedded in architectural structures. I know this is not a piece of art, but I am moved just the same. An aspect of what is going on here may find its way into my work some day.
Why is Hebrew text on this building in such a haphazard way? When the Jewish people were expelled from Regensburg in 1519 about 5,000 tombstones in the Jewish cemetery were raised and used for building material. This is a poignant example of that practice.
This is perhaps one of the most moving sculptures I have ever seen. Along the beautiful Danube River in Budapest, Hungary is a sculpture of sixty pairs of shoes cast out of iron. They were made by film director, Can Togay and sculptor, Gyula Pauer.
Approximately 20,000 Jews were shot along the banks of the Danube River by members of the Arrow Cross Party. The Arrow Cross Party was a fascist, anti-semitic organization founded by Ferenc Szalasi after Hitler overthrew the leader of the Hungarian government in 1944.
The victims were marched to the river, asked to remove their shoes, and were summarily shot. The shoes depicted are of all different styles and sizes; women's, men's, and children's shoes. No one was spared.
In the photos you will see that visitors placed stones inside and around the shoes. This is a Jewish tradition. Stones are placed at graves, not flowers. Yahrzeit candles were left as well. Yahrzeit candles are traditionally lit to remember a loved one who has passed on the anniversary of their death. You can see all the stones in and around the shoes, and what looks like little tin cups. Those cups are the yahrzeit candles.
Also while in Budapest, Hungary, we visited the Great Synagogue. This synagogue is the second largest synagogue in the world and it is a stunner.
In the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, behind the synagogue, is an enormous sculpture of the Emanuel (or Tree of Life) Tree. The sculpture was designed by Imre Varga and funded by the late actor Tony Curtis to honor his Hungarian-born father Emanuel Schwartz. The names of 30,000 victims of the Holocaust are inscribed on the leaves of the tree. This piece of art is stunningly beautiful.
I hope that you have enjoyed seeing the pieces of art that inspired me the most during our trip. Obviously, the pieces that I selected were sad reminders of a not-too-distant past. I was moved by how exquisite they were, and also by their pathos.
Do you have a favorite? I'd love to know what you think. Please share in the comments below.