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Pat Mercer Hutchens and Her The Auschwittz Album Re-visited Series: The Message and Stand of Passionate Humanism

Posted 30/1/2014

By Inna Rogatchi - January 2014


Dr. Inna Rogatchi, curator of The Auschwitz Album Re-Visited exhibition in the Jewish People Memory & Holocaust in Ukraine Museum, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine (from January 2014); co-founder and president of The Rogatchi Foundation

Pat Mercer Hutchens and Her Auschwitz Album Re-Visited The Message and Stand of Passionate Humanism

Acclaimed American artist Dr Pat Mercer Hutchens started her work on her The Auschwitz Album Re-Visited series in 2006. The artist who is also widely recognised as a public figure, and who, together with her husband, Brigadier General, US Army (Ret.) James M. Hutchens, have been actively supporting Israel and Jewish people for decades, has demonstrated her long-term strong interest towards the world of Jewish spiritual symbolism, and has authored particular and original works in that direction.

But the very story of the original Auschwitz Album prompted an incredible, unparalleled motivation for Pat Hutchens to undertake her unique series. As a deeply human and passionate personality, Pat felt an immediate emotional inter-lock with that young girl who survived the nightmare of the Holocaust, alone away from her entire family, and who found during the first day of the Auschwitz liberation that photo-album made by the Nazi murderers; who, upon random opening of the album, saw there the photographs of her family, relatives and acquaintances, all exterminated.

Pat Mercer Hutchens saw in those photographs that had been made by inhuman criminals, something that evoked into her, very powerfully, a strong and passionate intention somehow to return those doomed, hopeless, helpless, victimised people back to life - because people are alive as long as they are remembered. The artist painted the images of the people from the Brehov ghetto with passionate love. She provides an act of high mercy for them, those victims annihilated without the slightest reason or guilt.

By creating and re-creating the images of real people from Brehov ghetto, Pat was trying to give them a chance to address to us today. She has brought them back from oblivion. If there would be nothing else, such a deeply human intention and highly passionate way of exercising it are worthy of our high attention and unlimited gratitude to Pat Hutchens.

Working on her series which she named The Auschwitz Album Re-Visited, Pat did not transfer the images of the people from the original album to her canvasses mechanically, but, continuing along the line of distinguished symbolism in her art, the artist added some specific details to the scenes. In picking up those details, Pat followed her visions of the situations depicted in those photographs of doom, despair and unparalleled suffering of innocent people.

The artist who is a highly educated person with a deep interest in many fields of knowledge, and who is a doctor of theology specialising in Hebrew studies and Levantine languages, also added her highlights to every work of the collection. This does not happen often in the visual arts, but in this case, the highlights of Pat Hutchens provide a truly comprehensive guide to the world she re-created on her canvases.

Returning to the original source of the Pat's work, The Auschwitz Album itself, it should be noticed that those photographs represent a unique document. There were a couple of Nazis who were entertaining themselves in fixing if not collecting human suffering. And there were hundreds of their victims who had no power or choice whatsoever to escape to be photographed at the moment when they were on the edge of existence being completely overwhelmed by horror and dismay. They were elderly, babies, women... They had not the slightest possibility to turn away from the cold indifferent mechanical eye of the camera lenses. They were absolutely powerless.

Having said it, the least of the concerns of those haunted, suffering, helpless people was some camera around them. As it could be seen in practically all photos from the original album, people featured in the photos were deep down in their own thoughts. They were in the despair that comes from that territory that is beyond the point of no return.

Being a deep believer and a highly dignified person, Pat Hutchens just could not automatically transfer to her canvases such an ocean of bottomless human suffering. Pat's husband, Brigadier General (Retired) of the US Army James M. Hutchens, himself a legendary American hero and the Deputy Chaplain of the US Army, told me several times of finding his wife crying unstoppably while working on her canvases sitting in her studio in front of the photos from the original album from Auschwitz.

In her works from this collection, Pat Hutchens did try to return to life, to some extent, those concrete people from the Brehov ghetto in Hungary; to return them to this world through the perception of her viewers. She also did express her personal attitude towards the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis, and she did it most expressively.

By and via those symbolic details that Pat has added to the scenes and personages, she compels us to see the most essential parts of the crimes committed as she is seeing it. In full accordance with the standards and criteria of what's known as 'thoughtful art', the artist generalises phenomena, she highlights the accents which are the most important for her in certain symbolic scenes.

Pat Mercer Hutchens and Her Auschwitz Album Re-Visited The Message and Stand of Passionate Humanism

She gets into the core of the crimes committed during the Holocaust and she tells of human suffering which was inflicted by the Nazis onto a colossal number of innocent people, straightforwardly, and most importantly, with an unparalleled passion and deepest understanding. The artist behind the canvases is the person with the sharpest of minds and a bleeding heart.

It is just impossible to forget the eyes of a small girl from the face which is turned towards us, on the work "Why I, Emma?". Being a curator of the exhibition, I have chosen the title of the work to be the title of the collection because this is the work of the caliber which stays with mankind as one of its significant images.

In the same way, it is also impossible to get out of one's head the question: "Is My Dolly Also Jewish?..", which Pat has made as the title of another her works.

It is impossible to turn one's eyes from the faces of those Rabbis who look on us from inside the ocean of grief with unimaginable dignity.

Pat Hutchens succeeded in her noble mission to return those people in the photos from oblivion, indeed, – thousands of people have watched her canvases and will be doing so at numerous exhibitions world-wide.

What's more, the artist completed the essential task in teaching all her viewers to be compassionate, and to comprehend the crucial moments of history.

Because of these qualities, I am of the strong opinion that Pat's reading of The Auschwitz Album is one of the best ways to teach the Holocaust to children, and The Rogatchi Foundation is supporting educational initiatives of this kind world-wide.

In her collection, Pat Hutchens has painted 40 of the 193 photos from the album. She chose those that evoked the strongest response in her own heart. We can see from the series of images that the artist focuses her attention on three groups of people – women, children, elderly. To those who were the most vulnerable, the most helpless during that Nazi feast of evil on the earth.

We can also see that the artist identifies herself, very often, with her heroes. She tries to share their destiny by thinking on them so intensively that her own feelings become palpable on her canvasses. And from that perspective, the time difference of seven decades from the moment of those horrific actions does not mean a thing – as it should be the case, indeed, in a society which respects human life and its values.

By sharing in the destiny of those people on her canvasses, Pat Mercer Hutchens doing so with regard to all the victims of the Holocaust, all those millions of crushed human souls. Precious souls, as my dear friend Pat is always saying. What on earth could be more honourable than the artist's mission understood and realised in such way?

Pat Mercer Hutchens and Her Auschwitz Album Re-Visited The Message and Stand of Passionate Humanism

Dr Inna Rogatchi

The Rogatchi Foundation

January 2014

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