Kristallnacht by Sloan Nota
Some eggs take a long while to hatch. This post has required the incubation of a Stegosaurus egg. My reason includes the painter Edvard Munch, the Boston bombings, and something about why I’m an artist.
Munch is famous for creating The Scream and somewhat less known for his paintings of brothels, deathbeds and harrowing states of mind. He was a tragic and possibly loathsome human. I was deep into writing about him when the bombings occurred. Suddenly Munch turned my stomach. A lot of angry, bitter, cheap, lacerative art turned my stomach. I couldn’t engage with Munch.
But I have a blog to write. I kept coming back to Munch after failing to say what I wanted about the lockdown, the strident media coverage, the present day.
Think of the unusual brew of emotions you experienced as the bombing stories unfolded. These are altered states. We, we were assaulted. Foundations shook. There were feelings about our country, our sense of fair play, limbless strangers in hospitals, a dead child, and that sweet faced 19-year-old who hid a tap inside that he could turn and fill himself with murder.
Two months ago I made the work you see above, Kristallnacht. If you don’t know the story think of it as a first step in what became the Holocaust. I first read about it in grade school, maybe early high school. I still remember that mothers tried to hide their children under draped tables, but there was no hiding and no mercy. People were thrown out of windows. So much glass was smashed that it gave the night its name — the night of broken glass.
How are the Brothers Tsarnaev any different from the forces that perpetrated Kristallnacht? The urge to harm innocents, the self-righteous mindset. Same, the same.
I’m an artist because all my young life there was so much I couldn’t articulate. The important stuff was packed between the lines. And there remains in me a rage to say a truth. To point at whatever can’t be seen directly and then nail it to a wall. I’ve wanted to express Kristallnacht but I waited decades before an artwork finally came. It may be years again before I can depict my Boston bombings. If I become a better artist there may be a better Kristallnacht.
Detail of Kristallnacht