Codes on Canvas

This artwork is from my Holocaust series:  Barcodes, Boxes and Wildflowers, inspired by a trip to Auschwitz, Poland that I was able to take assisted by  a research grant. As a person of the Jewish faith, this trip was important to me in many ways.  Not only did I have relatives who were killed there, but my name bears the legacy of man’s inhumanity towards man. My name, Simone, comes from my Uncle Seymour, who was brutally murdered as an American P.O.W. in southern France. Thus, I was going to Auschwitz not only for academic reasons, but also as a kind of personal pilgrimage.

I was unaware that this trip would change my art to the extent it did. I learned in Auschwitz and Birkenau of the meanings and history of the tattoo numbers given to the “prisoners.”  These numbers had a connection to the German scientist who was working with IBM to invent computer barcodes. Today, every item we buy has a barcode; they have become a part of life. Although they are overlooked, they are everywhere—just as the dehumanization of people during the Holocaust was all-encompassing, taken for granted. These barcodes and lines can also remind us of the tallis, the Jewish prayer cloth people wrap around themselves to pray. Of course, those in Auschwitz/Birkenau had no prayer cloths with which to pray or mourn.

This postmodern work is about the balance or the hanging of barcodes as they engulf our lives.  It brings to mind the link between the prisoner tattoos used to count, to measure, and to take over one’s identity and the barcodes that inform the person we never know or see about the product. This is a piece that makes us think about labels, lines, and the power to imprison.

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