Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 22, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Holocaust Art


  • A look at the work of Robert Sutz, a Scottsdale artist who sculpts plaster �life masks� of people, many who are Holocaust survivors, and sometimes creates paintings of their compelling memories.
Guests:
  • Robert Sutz - Artist


View Transcript
Ted Simons
>>> The Scottsdale public library is currently featuring the word of artist Robert Sutz in his presentation "Tribute: Honoring Survivors". Sutz is originally a Chicago native. He worked on a project showing Jewish holocaust survivors. He goes further and sometimes paints the stories he hears. Larry Lemmons visited Robert Sutz at his Scottsdale studio.




Larry Lemmons
>> If only they were only nightmares. They are memories. They are scenes from the lives of survivors. These plaster busts are those of holocaust survivors. They, and the images, were made by Scottsdale artist Robert Sutz.

Robert Sutz
>> If they would not put you in the gas chamber right away, they would assign you to a job. A job this man had was to go around on the streets and pick up all the dead bodies. He said that there was always an officer there with shiny boots and a well-pressed uniform that would take meticulous notes about exactly how many corpses. So he's going around collecting all of these bodies. One of the stories, but there are so many other stories that are so unbelievable.

Larry Lemmons
>> And yet real. Sutz interviews his subjects, makes what he calls a life-mask. And then has moved to paint some of the horrific stories.

Robert Sutz
>> I hear the stories and certainly sympathize. You know, I feel that I want to do something, and maybe it's like an outlet or something. It does not bother me like so many people feel that it probably should. How can you paint these unbelievable horrific scenes? And, I don't know, maybe not go nutty yourself. But I don't know, I am doing them and I want to do more. I keep hearing more stories.

Larry Lemmons
>> He didn't always focus on the holocaust. In his early years he was known for urban scenes and portraiture.

Robert Sutz
>> No matter how good a portrait painter paints a portrait, he is going to flatter the person a little or do something, make them look nice or not so nice or whatever. So I wanted to get an irrefutable likeness.

Robert Sutz
>> What we have here is an antique dental chair. When people sit for life-masks, this is where they usually sit. They look like I’m waiting for this to dry good so I can put on another coat with glazing and to finish it up. As a reference, when I paint these, like the eyes and things, these are some shots I took of her when I visited her.

Larry Lemmons
>> Sutz is specifically aware of the difference between art and artifice.

Robert Sutz
>> If I carry the painting too far, it'll be more like an illustration and there will be less of an emotional feel to it. I want to try to save myself from working on it too long. I like to get the impression first, if I can get the immediate impression, to me, that's what makes a painting great. So I am fearful of working on it too long. I have a feeling like this is going to be a barbed wire they wrapped them up in. I can get in there and paint detail in the barbs, and more detail in the rope or detail in the face. So it's kind of like back and forth. It'll go back and forth. You know, how do I want to show this guy? Should I put him -- for a while, I had a real good face on this guy, a German face. I kind of detailed the hands. And then I started thinking, it got to be too important. You know, I had a tendency to look at this, even though this guy's behind. So I had detail in it and I kind of wiped it off because I wanted the detail to be in this area. More sketches.

Larry Lemmons
>> Early in his artistic career, Sutz began carrying cards on which he would sketch ideas. He keeps them all in this file drawer, photographs, memories.

Robert Sutz
>> Here's one.

Larry Lemmons
>> Some are drawn after interviews with holocaust victims. Potential paintings, warnings to the complacent.

Robert Sutz
>> This is what I imagine it looked like in his gunsight, where he wanted that bullet to enter.

Larry Lemmons
>> It would be optimistic to think that in the accumulated history of survivors, a common experience would indicate a reason for survival.

Robert Sutz
>> I think 99% of them said that they survived the Holocaust for one main reason. That they were lucky, that luck saved them. And in addition to luck, that they had a tremendous desire to stay alive, and to do what they could to fight against dying. But the main thing is that they feel it was just luck.

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