event

Nagasaki-Hiroshima Memorial Project by Sandy Bleifer

Cover photo for the exhibition
Preparing for event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy
Andrew Williams, Sandy Bleifer and JANM Staff
Sandy Bleifer, Andrew Williams and JANM Staff preparing event
Mrs. Kaz Suyeishi, an Atomic Bombing Survivor (Hibakusha) presenting at an exhibition forum at IGM AG
Artist Sandy Bleifer
Date: 
November 6, 2010 - 1:00pm - January 7, 2011 - 1:00pm
Location: 
USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery, 2240 Alcazar Street 2nd Floor

THE HEALING WAR OF ART

by Yolantha Harrison Pace


"It 's never enough to sit in your studio and make works of art for commerce.  It's necessary to use one’s life and one’s skills to promote a rich and sustainable future. Art is never literal and finite.
Each individual, and individuals over time, must bring their own experiences to the work, be touched by the work, and moved by the work to draw meaning, to grow, and to act,” said Sandy Bleifer.

Artist Sandy Bliefer’s artwork is intended as a medicine for defining the meaning of what ails society. Her artwork challenges society to grow past its social ills and then to act, leaving a legacy for a better and healthier global nation.

Sandy Bleifer’s HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI MEMORIAL PROJECT, depending on one's life experiences, will leave the viewer "bombed out" or activated for a healthier global climate. The finite level of her artwork that speaks out against the ravages of war is dictated by the infinite catacombs of the human mind. This exhibit, birthed at great emotional cost involved the stripping down, paring down, of the artist's own personal artillery. She used her own body parts as molds to create the hand made paper sculptures.

There is healing in capturing the universal notions of humanity. Picasso said “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life” He also acknowledged that, “Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth.” Therein lies the universal depth of this exhibit. Bleifer puts forth her truth of war in an attempt to rid our souls of this dreadful and mean spirited disease. Part of Bleifer's catharsis was the medium for her work. Most artists use tools and venues outside of themselves--acrylics, charcoal, violins, harps, protractors, a vase of flowers, easels. Bleifer, however, used her own body parts as profiles for her artwork. One recurring catalyst of war is that it is fueled by racism which consistently infects and fractures an unnatural cultural divide. Bleifer chose the recurring theme of her legs for her artwork, stating, “Because the leg form is not racial or gender specific it enables the artist to depict the universality of the tragedies of war.” She further invites her audiences to a spiritual cleansing by draping the “costumes” of war on manikins, allowing the viewer to become one with the war victims by envisioning themselves donning the skins of devastation.

As for the HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI MEMORIAL PROJECT’S artistic goals and healing capacity for meaning, growth and action, she states, “Many people tried to dissuade me from undertaking this Project, especially from trying to bring it to Japan, believing that the subject was too sensitive for both peoples to want to encounter. I was concerned that it was perhaps, presumptuous of me to offer a vision of an event I had not personally experienced, in a foreign culture I could not hope to fully understand. Would the art works themselves actually communicate in a country with a different artist heritage? It was difficult for me to know what the impact in the U.S. and Japan would be, so it would be difficult to track them. But, even if only part of these goals were realized, even if only a few people were reached and nothing further would ever come of it, I determined it was worth devoting my all to work and learn from it.”

“Art has an enemy called ignorance.”
                                                   Ben Jonson, (Act 1, Scene 1, Every Man Out of His Humour)

Diagnosing the birthing of this event, Bleifer tells us, “The purpose of this exhibition in the U.S was to stimulate discussion and more fully inform Americans, in this significant memorial year of the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings, as well as address related contemporary issues that have been infused by those historic events.

A broad spectrum of educational and community groups were involved to provide the resources and programs to enable reflection on the familiar rationale which has been sustained officially and by a large number of Americans. Often derided as ‘historical revisionism’ by many of the war generation, recently declassified documents and revealing correspondence were presented during this Project in order to offer a wider view of the process and motivations of those responsible for developing the bombs and the decision to use them. In addition, eye-witness testimony and photo documentation of the human devastation supplemented the art exhibition on some occasions. This served to shift the focus of the examination of this difficult subject from a singularly military and strategic frame of reference to a broader exploration of the root causes of human conflict and ways art can serve to prevent and heal future conflict.”

"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory.
Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future."
                                                                                                                                  Lewis B. Smedes

In final response to her own personal health and well being regarding her project, Sandy Bleifer states, “I have been greatly enriched by the goodness of all those in the U.S and Japan who have responded to this mission. I have been inspired by the courage of those who remember and share those terrible events in an effort to prevent future recurrence. I am gratified to the growing number of individuals dedicated to ensuring mankind finds a way to heal and prevent ever repeating this level of violence.”

Art bids us touch and taste and hear and see the world…
                                                                                                                  William Butler Yeats

Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.
                                                                                                                 Buddha

It has been sixty-five years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For many, these events are but faded memories or stories out of history books. Yet for those proximate to the fallout of war, the effects of radiation exposure continue to manifest themselves in the appearance of new cancers and the psychological scarring from an act of tragedy played out on a civilian stage. 

In the exhibit HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI MEMORIAL PROJECT, artist Sandy Bleifer’s art reflects on these issues from both an intimately personal and broader societal viewpoint. Her artwork is intended to assist the healing of all of those hurt by past and current ravages of war.  Bliefer employed her own anatomy, particularly her legs, as the molds for the creation of handmade paper sculptures. She states “Because the leg form is not racial or gender specific, it enables the artist to depict the universality of the tragedies of war.” She further invites her audiences to interact with her work by draping the “costumes” of war on manikins, thus promoting empathy with war victims by envisioning themselves donning the skins of devastation.

Bleifer notes that the subject of the project was challenging both personally and politically. “Many people tried to dissuade me from undertaking this Project, especially from trying to bring it to Japan, believing that the subject was too sensitive for both peoples to want to encounter.” However, the artist hopes that her work will “shift the focus of the examination of this difficult subject from a singularly military and strategic frame of reference to a broader exploration of the root causes of human conflict and ways art can serve to prevent and heal future conflict.” 

To View a video of the exhibition please click here