“Death As An Usher: Berlin, 1933”

I visited Minneapolis for the first time in little more than four years, where I once worked for the University of Minnesota. One of my favorite spots on campus was the Weisman Art Museum, which has opened new gallery space since my last journey to the Twin Cities. While there’s much to be said about the eclectic works on exhibit, one stands out in my mind above all others. Jerome Witkin’s piece is a three-panel, mural size painting inspired–if that’s the right word–by the horror of the Holocaust. At first glance, the work appeared as horror-fantasy, evoking the hauntings of a strange world inhabited by peculiar people and strange beings. However, it was as I gazed deeper into the third panel (pictured here) that my blood began to run cold. What was at first farce slowly turned into a morbid perversion of humanity: the usher’s Hitlerian mustache, sinister grin, and piercing flashlight; the girl, now dead; and, the man-sheep dragging victims into the darkness. As I stood there alone, I felt engulfed by the world of this trilogy. Like the movie theater depicted, calamities and man’s inhumanity are often sealed off from the light of day; they happen in places far removed from the “outside world,” and when you’re caught there, no one can hear you scream.

[photo credit: David Martínez]


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