The Rat Pack: An Art Exhibition
In response to a Lego exhibition in a Jewish Museum, Spiegelman said, “What’s less interesting in this show is when you talk about these Lego’s: it’s cute, it’s about Legos. It’s not about Auschwitz” (www.thirteen.org/nyvoices/transcripts/spiegelman.html).In Maus the focus falls on Auschwitz and not the medium of comics, or the mouse/cat metaphor. Art exhibitions become flashy ways to tell stories rather than to tell stories through a different media, which will illuminate the story differently. This expresses Spiegelman’s claim. To make up for the lack of great art exhibitions that uses different mediums to depict the holocaust I choose to create my own. My art exhibition will be a part of the Holocaust memorial museum in Washington, DC. The exhibition will be organized/divided in two parts. One section would be devoted to the Artie, artist, and art’s relationship to the Holocaust. The other section focuses on Vladek’s narrative of the Holocaust. Even though the two stories are intertwined, each section holds a different focus. Separation of the two will simplify the ideas that are associated with them. Significant comic panels will illuminate the ideas. The size of the panels will be 20–70ftX20–70Ft (panel size varies).
Artie tells the narrative of Vladek’s experience in the holocaust. He mentions the details about Vladek’s life that he promised not to write about. As mentioned in class some of the great essays conceived by Mark Twain, were not intended to be published. Matter of fact Twain wanted the works of art to be destroyed. Artie perceived the importance in the information Vladek presented and thought it was important enough to include into Maus, despite his promise to his father. His loyalty to the art world proved to be stronger than his loyalty to his father. In chapter two the panel depicts a deep conversation about Vladek’s relationships with woman. He said he wanted the content of the conversation not to be mentioned because, “It has nothing to do with the holocaust” (Spiegelman, 25)! And Artie understood a deep level of truth and privacy of his life needed to be exposed to propel this work of art.
Since this panel refers to art as a whole and expresses that this story holds a deep level of truth and privacy, and some of this content was not intended to be used for this paper needs to be an initial point in the exhibition. The panel illustrates the responsibility of an artist and their relationship to an art piece. The plaque inscription next to this panel in the exhibition would mock Vladek’s quote with “It has everything to do with Art”.
“It appeared in an obscure underground comic book. I NEVER thought Vladek would see it” (Spiegelman, 101). In chapter four a comic book Artie published Vladek saw. Artie did not want Vladek to see it. This is an important panel in relationship to art. When a piece of artwork is shared and added to the art world anyone can see it. One of the underlying messages is that an artist should take responsibility for their work and understand it is exposed to others and influence others. Your art work will affect others in ways not expected and people you do not expect to introduce themselves to your work. Artist should be prepared for this because the affect of your art on the world can be possibly harmful to others. Vladek was upset at the content because it depicted personal info about his family and resurfaced tragedies in his life. This is the power of art.
The heated discussion between Artie and Vladek relates to the artist. These two images enforce the importance of the telling of history versus the depression and distance of a history. Throughout history the tragic histories of individuals or groups have not been initially told and shared. It is important though to share your tragic history or else it will be lost and future generations will not know what happened and how this relates to their present time. Vladek destroyed Anja’s diary, which presented her experiences during the war. Artie referred to his father later as a Murderer. In this case Vladek is a murderer of history; a murderer of Anja’s personal story, during the holocaust. I would choose this panel to display the struggle between the horrors of telling a story and the importance of telling a tragic story. (160)
The swastika image reflects the cruelties of the holocaust. Vladek and Anja are walking on this never-ending swastika road, which they approaching the middle of. By this time they are living in the midst of the war. Most areas are occupied by German soldiers and Jews are prisoners. The image illustrates hopelessness and desolation. The trees are bare. The ground is barren and dead. There are not, any homes in the distance and there is a factory that pollutes the air with its smoke. The vague image of the factory could also be compared to the prison camps where Jewish were killed and smoked through chimneys. The single beauty in this picture is of Vladek and Anja who are holding hands and are steadfast on the swastika road. The panel serves the exhibition in two ways. It displays the struggle and the uncertainty of the Jews, which shows the atmosphere of world war two Germany and the mindsets of the Jews during the war. And it displays the connection Jews had with their family and love ones. This image encapsulates the whole journey of the Jews during World War Two. (127)
“Be careful! A Jew will catch you to a bag and eat you” (Spiegelman, 151)!
The myths of a time period can be ironic and interesting. This panel reflects Vladek’s encounter with polish children during the holocaust. In the panel a group of polish children recognize that Vladek (even though he is in his polish disguise) is a Jew. They flee to their mothers screaming “Help! Mommy! A Jew” (Spiegelman, 151)! Their facial expressions showcase their fear of Jews. This is ironic because at the time Jews were viewed primarily as vermin that should be exterminated and a weak race. Though, the Polish were afraid of them in proximity. Jewish were the ones who were afraid of the Germans and the poles. They wanted to avoid capture. But here the Polish are running away from harmless mice (151)! As Spiegelman said, you get “the vulnerability of the other, that made even little children lethally dangerous” (MetaMaus, 28).
The next panel displays Artie and his girlfriend in a car heading to Vladek’s Bungalow in Catskills. The picture displays a casual image of cars on the freeway but the conversation between Artie and his girlfriend has the focus. Artie says, “I know this is insane, but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! … I guess it’s some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did” (Spiegelman, 176). This panel brings focus to many ideas, such as, the desire to connect to ancestors/parents, the guilt of not experiencing the harsh realities of what the parents/ancestors went through, the difficulty for an artist to recapture a reality (specifically in a comic strip) that they never experienced. This is an important panel/quote for the art exhibition that gives us a characteristic of Artie that sends a message to all artists. Artie struggles with guilt throughout the whole story.
260 — The Jews can be easily compared to African-Americans. Vladek would think otherwise. When Vladek, Artie, and his girlfriend (Francoise) comes back home from the grocery store, Francoise decides to pick up a hitch hiker who is black. Immediately Vladek stereotypes this black man as dangerous and a thief and expresses his anger after the man is dropped off. As Francoise responds, “How can you, of all people, be such a racist! You talk about blacks the way the Nazis talked about the Jews” (Spiegelman, 259). This is ironic because Vladek should relate to blacks who have an imprint of a holocaust in their own history and has been a target of racism and inferiority. The fact that he generalizes the blacks as thieves he disregards the times during the holocaust when other Jews attempted to steal from him, such as, the treasure box from the Swiss Red Cross or when Jews stole his stash of cigarettes (Spiegelman, 264/224). Through these experiences he does not generalize Jews as thieves. Spiegelman makes an interesting choice in the panel. The panel shows when they all get home from the grocery store and Vladek stands by the car talking about making lunch and glad that the “Shvartser” did not take the groceries. Instead as being drawn white, he is black. Spiegelman choice is an over-statement that Vladek and Blacks are the same. This panel is important because it develops connections to other racial identities and histories outside of the holocaust, which helps expand the theme and topic. Also Spiegelman once said in an interview that originally he was going to write a comic similar to Maus but whereas blacks were mice and whites were cats. The premise of Maus began with the connection of Jewish oppression and black oppression.
Compassion plays a vague vital force amongst the Jewish during the holocaust. Vladek receives help and lends help to different people during the holocaust. These acts of compassion would be illuminated because even though the holocaust was an ugly period of time there was so much beauty in the resiliency and compassion of the Jewish people. I choose to display a panel that reveals one of many compassionate acts made by Vladek. During his time in the war camps Vladek meet a man named Mandelbaum. Mandelbaum did not have prison clothes that fit him, a proper belt, nor fitted shoes, nor a spoon to allow him to eat. These items were very valuable in the prison camps and Mandelbaum was deprived of proper and essential equipment. He was frantic and distressed until Vladek did him a favor. Vladek arrange a pair of fitted wooden shoes, a belt, a spoon, and gives them to Mandelbaum. In the panel we see Mandelbaum embrace Vladek with tears strolling down his cheek thanking Vladek. Vladek gets a gift also. He is overwhelmed by Mandelbaum’s joy that he cries and experiences a lively human connection. (194).
Vladek’s lack of empathy for blacks, he shares with Germans too. Not all Germans were Nazi’s. And although some did not revolt against the Nazis, and stood by idly, harm should not be wished upon them. In the next panel him and Shivek are free of the camps on their way to Hannover they witness a German family in a destroyed home. They ask where they could find water. The German father replied, “We haven’t had any water in three days” (Spiegelman, 290)! The mother announced, “The Americans destroyed –sob-everything” (Spiegelman, 290)! The next panel shows a train leaving on the tracks, which Vladek and Shivek embarked. Vladek says. “We Came away Happy….Let the Germans have a little what they did to the Jews”(Spiegelman,290). This showcases Vladek’s lack of empathy for the Germans and his revengeful spirit and hatred for all Germans because of what the Nazi’s did. This is ironic and negative and should be address as an issue that is why I choose to use this panel. I hope to teach others we should not hate those of a group because of what particular individuals of the group did. We should know that German civilians also suffered during the holocaust.
Chapter Five of book two has the title “The Second Honeymoon”. Closure to the holocaust story happens when Vladek and Anja reunite. The image I chose is recurrent throughout the book. It is the image of Vladek and Anja embracing with a black backdrop and a white moon. In a sense this is their second honey moon and there reunion is their marriage. Circles are a useful tool for focusing meaning. The reunion of a holocaust survivor couple proves to be meaningful.
Visual art exhibitions, a traditional art form, can unite with comics. The art exhibition of Maus blurs that division between Comics and fine art. This is still much needed in the art world. A group of large comic panels can be a powerful presentation.
Groth, Gary, and Robert Fiore. The New Comics. New York: Berkley, 1988. Print.
“NY Voices — Interview with Art Spiegelman.” THIRTEEN. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. <http://www.thirteen.org/nyvoices/transcripts/spiegelman.html>.
Spiegelman, Art, Art Spiegelman, and Art Spiegelman. The Complete Maus. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.
Spiegelman, Art. MetaMaus. New York: Pantheon, 2011. Print.