cover image Exhibitions: Essays on Art and Atrocity

Exhibitions: Essays on Art and Atrocity

Jehanne Dubrow. Univ. of New Mexico, $19.95 trade paper (148p) ISBN 978-0-8263-6526-2

Poet Dubrow (Wild Kingdom) serves up haunting, personal meditations on art and its capacity to grapple with tragedy. In “The Dead Class,” Dubrow weaves together memories of the antisemitism she endured from classmates as the only Jewish student in her Polish school with reflections on how Polish playwright Tadeusz Kantor’s The Dead Class, in which a teacher presides over what turns out to be “a cast of ghosts,” urges audiences to confront the legacy of the Holocaust. “Trauma resists retelling.... It tears at the edges. It needs gluing together,” Dubrow writes in “The Red Picture and the Blue,” likening Bosnian artist Mersad Berber’s collage-like mixed-media pieces on the Bosnian genocide to the interviews conducted by her own mother, a U.S. diplomat posted in Eastern Europe, with the genocide’s refugees, suggesting both reflect the “fragmentation” and “disjointed time” caused by trauma. Other entries are more strictly autobiographical and succeed on the strength of the prose; in the candid “The Lodger,” Dubrow recounts a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art during which she ruminated on the dissolution of her marriage: “My husband had become forgetful. For a while, he forgot his love for me, left it the way he might leave his wallet in a taxicab.” The treatises on art stimulate, and Dubrow’s lyrical style sings. Heady yet intimate, this provides much to ponder. (Sept.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misidentified which essay deals with playwright Tadeusz Kantor.