Guest Artist Story, March 10, 2021
Kultur Stories launched its second virtual pilot program in early March, connecting over Zoom three pods of young scholars from South Sudan, Sweden, and the United States. Over the next three months, these young scholars will discuss and create digital stories around themes focused on issues of oppression: COVID-19, Identity, and Staying at Home during the Pandemic. Guest artists will join us throughout the program to share stories about their life and use of art in response to issues of oppression.
On March 10th, guest artist Margot Neuhaus presented a moving account related to her Jewish family perishing in Poland during the Holocaust. Margot described how her young parents survived that horror, fleeing to Mexico where she was born soon after their arrival. Using descriptive terms, Margot explained that it was not easy growing up in a community where she had a different religion and skin color from the majority of people in the community.
Eventually, Margot moved to the United States, married her husband, raised children, and worked as a child and adolescent therapist. Her life was full. Yet, the impact of her history was affecting her. Margot found that through art she could heal the trauma carried through her life. Over time, Margot moved from darkness to light.
In her presentation for Kultur Stories, Margot shared In Memoriam, a series of paintings she created that explores her feelings related to her Jewish heritage and honors the victims, particularly her family members, of the Holocaust. Many of these works incorporate the repetition of large brush strokes and broad sweeps of paint across the canvases. Most of the strokes are vertically, horizontally, or diagonally linear, and sometimes are arranged together to create specific shapes or forms, often to represent symbols. For example, one work displays the Star of David, which takes up nearly the entire canvas and is formed with broad brush strokes of a dark blue hue on top of a yellow and red background. Neuhaus also maintains a thematic color scheme of red and black, colors which are symbolic of the Flag of Nazi Germany. In 2018, In Memoriam, as well as her other series Light Motives, were displayed in her exhibition in Krakow, Poland, called “Coming Full Circle”, where Neuhaus mentioned her mother was from.
Joyce Koo, a college intern working on Kultur Stories said, “I was moved by Neuhaus’ presentation of this set of works, and her process of their creation. These large installations carry heavy stories and personal meanings mixed in with cultural identity and pride. Her works convey simplistic yet intimate messages of loss, grief, and tragedy, and I thought it was very brave and touching for Neuhaus to have shared her family story of oppression through her art. It was also interesting to see how her Light Motives series carries similar themes, but shifts in terms of the color scheme from red and black to orange and yellow. To me, I saw this as a transition from the darkness to the light, and from mourning to finding hope — perhaps this can be seen as similar to finding the light at the end of the tunnel. Neuhaus’ presentation lined up very well with how the Kultur Stories program has been exploring themes of issues of oppression within the digital storytelling format.
Kultur Stories high-school intern, Niles Garrison, described, “In her presentation, Margot Neuhas shared her series that honored her Jewish heritage and victims of the Holocaust. You see the heart and soul that Margot put into the work, moved by the loss of her family who perished in the Holocaust. She wanted to honor them in any way she could. The symbols she drew represented the Star of David, an important symbol of the Jewish people. Other symbols, people behind black brushstrokes, represented the people imprisoned in concentration camps. Margot Neuhaus expressed her feelings through her paintings and I was really happy to meet her (virtually).”
Margot was deeply moved in joining Kultur Stories and wishes to participate in future programs. We welcome her embrace.