New Exhibition at the Sydney Museum

October 27, 2011 by  
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Thea Weiss has opened a new exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum….a tribute to Lotte Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and a volunteer guide at the museum.

Thea and Lotte Weiss

In her address at the opening of Fire and Ice, Thea Weiss said: “This exhibition is a tribute to my mother-in-law, Lotte Weiss, a volunteer guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum. It is inspired by Lotte’s auto-biography, MY TWO LIVES, and the countless tales Lotte has related to me over the last 38 years.

Many of the works have just returned from acclaimed exhibitions at the Virginia Holocaust Museum and Houston Holocaust Museum, where they were described as “among the most compelling exhibitions of art” hosted by the Museum in recent years.

“Some say the world will end in fire; Some say in ice”

Fire and Ice, Robert Frost, American poet, 1874 – 1963

Robert Frost’s poem was inspired by a passage in Canto 32 of Dante’s Inferno, in which a horrific ending awaits the evil tormentors. Surrounded by the fires of hell, their bodies are submerged in caskets of ice.

But what of the six million innocent victims?

In which part of our mind could we have ever imagined such a finality for them?

“Whilst we were digging in the fields one day, we noticed a terrible smell of burning flesh. We looked up to heaven and saw the black smoke. My sisters said: “Today is the end of the world”

My Two Lives, Lotte Weiss, 1923 –

In March 1942, Lotte was an 18 year-old woman ripped from the tranquillity of her family life in Czechoslovakia and tossed into the hellhole of Auschwitz concentration camp. As part of the first transport to Auschwitz, she lost her name and became a number – 2065. Her remaining family of seven was taken from her, one by one, to their fate.

How does one continue? For what purpose? Who would remain to lament her if she died?

Lotte survived – somehow. Perhaps it was her embrace of the goodness of life; perhaps her determination to not let her tormentors succeed in their killing spree. Her survival represents the victory of the human spirit – testimony to its determination to survive the most difficult conditions. Lotte was a blossom not crushed by the Nazis.

Lotte lives today. Lotte inspires today. Lotte is my mother-in-law.”

As a guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum since its inception in 1992, everyone Lotte encounters feels they’ve known her for years, no matter how brief the conversation. However, her words are so powerful that they leave an indelible mark on your mind and soul.

Her eloquence has played an integral part in informing Thea’s practice. The many layers of Lotte’s life resonate in her work with the overlapping of forms and textures. The recurring symbols found in the miracle of Lotte’s survival – particular phrases and numerals, the memories of her beloved family – are repeatedly interwoven throughout the collection.

Much of Thea’s work utilises words and numbers, inspired by Lotte’s book. Letters are stamped onto canvas or carved into etching plates or wooden boards to replicate the tattooing of the registration number onto Lotte’s left arm. Thea incorporates printmaking, painting and installation into her work and moves from etching to oils to 3-dimensional pieces to reflect the horrors Lotte endured into art which will endure and serve as a testament to her survival.


One Response to “New Exhibition at the Sydney Museum”
  1. Barry Smorgon says:

    Lotte is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Her positive attitude to life, given what she has endured is simply amazing.
    I wish her health & happiness for many years to come.
    She is truly an inspiration to the whole Community.

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