Friday, June 7, 2013

The (In)humanity Triptych: The Expulsion (Left Panel)

Fielding Graduate University

The (In)humanity Triptych:
An Afternoon of Art and Conversation with Fielding faculty member
Sanford Drob, PhD
Wednesday, July 17 | 4 - 6 pm

Alexandria Mark Hotel

5000 Seminary Rd  Alexandria, VA 22311

Plaza I
I believe that after the Holocaust we can no longer read biblical narratives as the archetypes of Jewish and human experience. The 'revelations' of the Torah and other biblical books have been supplemented, if not superseded, by the events of the twentieth century. A new “negative revelation” prompts us to reconsider and re-signify the narratives of our biblical heritage. The paintings, “The Expulsion,” “The Sacrifice” and “The Accusation,” together comprising The (In)humanity Triptych reflect my efforts at such resignification. In these paintings I have re-read three biblical narratives, the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden, Noah’s Sacrifice, and Esther's confrontation with Haman,  through the lens of the Holocaust.

The process through which these paintings developed was not consciously planned and directed. I originally set out to paint a standard “Expulsion,” but in the course of my work on the painting Adam and Eve seemed horrified rather than ashamed and an un-willed  “dialog” ensued between myself and the figures. This dialog, which extended into my dreams, resulted in the three paintings as they are presented here.  My own understanding of these paintings continues to develop and I invite discussion about them and their subject matter.

The Expulsion, Oil on linen 28" x 32"
For me, “The Expulsion,” raises many questions, one of which is whether humankind was created just to end up in the ghettos, concentration camps and crematoria. The painting asks for the existential warrant for the creation of humankind, as the biblical figures peer into the future and see the fate of humanity.

A review which discusses this painting appeared in the Jewish Forward in December, 2016:

see comments


  1. Dear Sandy Drob, Thank you for the Inhumanity triptych. Your paintings are a revelation. Your exploration of Biblical narrative and the 20th century atrocities of the Holocaust is a necessary redefinition of Jewish consciousness and world consciousness. Your masterly paintings are visionary and confrontational, and you offer something we need to recognize and acknowledge. Can we face the Adam and Eve that is an ongoing depiction of who we have been eternally, an Adam and Eve who confront us and turn away from us? Will we confront them, or turn away? Will we confront ourselves, or turn away from ourselves? What do we yearn for, what have we lost? What can we create? Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Diane Mieskowski sent me the following. Below is her comment and visualization along with my response:

    Dr. Drob,
    I'm haunted by your painting of Eve and appreciate the painting of Esther, but am drawn to a third visualization. If this makes sense to you, you're more than welcome to make use of it.
    Eve strikes me as someone who turns a corner and sees the horror of the Shoah -- what it will do to her and to her children. Her husband can neither protect her nor bear the shame of forced witness. The current painting of Esther seems to be a transition piece. What I'm seeing as a final piece is the woman who has survived the Shoah and integrated it -- a woman who does not accuse but instead constellates the presence of the Self. The Self in turn deconstellates the power structures behind the Shoa, and in doing so, reverses the flow of suffering.

    Winnicott comes to mind. Paraphrasing: "Hello, object. I'm going to destroy you... Oh, I haven't been able to do so. You, object, now have value for me."

    The man with Esther would then confront the viewer as directly as the Queen. She has survived the Shoa and empowered him. Together, they constellate the presence of omnipotence, beauty, and justice. For anyone holding onto petty interests, quite an intimidating picture.
    With warmest regards,

    Diane Mieskowski

    Diane, I very much appreciate receiving your thoughts and visualization in response to my paintings, and you indeed point to something incomplete in the narrative. Certainly, in the painting of Esther there remains anger, hurt, and accusation, and you point to a possibility beyond that, which--perhaps--in the context of the Shoah at least-- I was not ready to contemplate when I created the triptych. I am possibly still not ready to fully embrace the survival, empowerment and especially wholeness you speak of (though I feel their promise and presence in both Eve and Esther!) but your comment has clarified this for me and will, I am sure, work on my psyche.

    Sandy Drob

  3. From the Jewish Forward: Talya Zax, December 21, 2016

    There they are, in Sanford Drob’s “Expulsion:” a man and woman, draped in animal skins, seized with grief – the woman gazing forward, determined but horrified, the man covering his face with his hand – and wearing armbands emblazoned with yellow Jewish stars, the word “Jude” at their centers.
    It’s a painting that, despite the obviousness of its concept – it’s not news that the word “expulsion” has, for Jews, a multitude of painful meanings – produces a strange sense of imbalance. Is the work a commentary on the present? The past, The future? Are the man and woman Adam and Eve? Joseph and Mary, en route to Egypt? Is the painting an allegory about contemporary refugees?
    At least one of those questions has an answer – the figures are Adam and Eve, Drob confirmed – but the imbalance, perhaps, is the point. So it goes with many of the artworks featured at the Yiddish New York exhibit “Trees of Life and Evil Eyes – a Contemporary Take on Superstition, Symbols and Mysticism in Today’s Jewish Worlds,” open through Wednesday, December 28th at the Clemente Soto VĂ©lez Cultural and Educational Center’s Abrazo Interno Gallery.
    After all, mysticism is a reframing of the world, and one that often dissolves boundaries presumed to be solid.
    “In a world that’s more scientific and rational, where do these three things — superstition, symbolism and mysticism — fit into our world?” asked Deborah Ugoretz, who, along with Tine Kinderman, curated the exhibit.
    ,,,It would be easy to interpret “Expulsion” as a work of realism, especially compared to the objects surrounding it, including Susan C. Dessel’s rotund conceptual sculpture “ph! ph! ph!…” and Isaac Roller’s violent, fantastical wall sculpture “Djinni.” Yet the abstraction and imagination of those works highlight, in Drob’s, a careful defiance of strict realism: Its blunt, static lines and curves and straight-backed, stoic-faced figures are reminiscent of representational folk art.

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