PERSISTENCE OF THINGS PAST: Cabbages and Geraniums, part 2…

We become aware, with amazement, that we have forgotten nothing, every memory evoked rises in front of us painfully clear.

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

Sitting high in the rarified air of Sutton Place, Valerie writes:

“I am sitting in my apartment trying to remember what I least want to remember: Auschwitz.  Golden light reflects off the river–for again I live on water–this time it is the East River in New York–flows through the windows until the apartment is filled with it.  Around me are the paintings I love, some by me, some by others, and I see, as if for the first time, the electric blues, the sunny oranges, the sportive greens, the plush reds and oches that I choose to surround myself with.  For I love color: bold, rich, vibrating.  And now Auschwitz comes to me again, swims toward me in a hazy mist: all grays, blacks, all dullness, the negation of life […] all grayness except for the cabbages and the geraniums.” (Furth, Cabbages and Geraniums, 16)

In this passage, Furth the collector meets Furth the survivor, as she describes her interaction with the practice of art as a defense again the greatest darkness of her experience.  Here the abstract materiality of color as encountered in the work of Frank Stella or Helen Frankenthaler, whose work she doubtlessly remarks upon above, marries with the spiritual demand of remembrance evidenced in the Louise Fishman’s oeuvre, or the subjective invitation of David Row.  Art, for Furth, evinces life, its possibility and continuation.

… to be continued …

Above: detail from diptych by Valerie Furth, Cabbages and Geraniums.  1985.

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