I have provided a description of the “volume projects” named “Six Million” and “576” on this page. To learn more about these pieces, and how they are connected, download the PDF file named “Six Million and 576, The Support Document” here.
“Six Million” is an interdisciplinary work of process art memorializing the Jewish people exterminated during the Holocaust. Each of the six million killed is commemorated with a black ink impression of the friction ridges of my right forefinger. When the final fingerprint is made in 2030, “Six Million” will include 50,000 letter-size sheets of 65-lb. acid-free paper. Since I began the project more than eleven years ago, over 23,625 pages have been completed; each page contains 120 fingerprints arranged on an 8.75” x 7.5” grid. Other elements of the project include scanography portraits of the working digit, experimental writing, and a growing number of people who bear witness to the project’s development. “Six Million” takes an original and imaginative approach to content and form because, in truth, it has no beginning and it has no end; there can be no “closure” to the devastation and loss wrought by the Holocaust. “Six Million” explores the universal themes of family, segregation, isolation, survival, and hope; it is a testament to the unconquerable human spirit. It achieves this through the emotional connection established between the emphatic, direct fingerprints and the lifetimes of the persons they represent. Ultimately, the project is shaped by the life experiences of all who witness its evolution. Over the years, many people have visited my studio to bear witness to “Six Million”; their reactions – varying from shock to sadness to reflection to awe – somehow inform and nurture the ongoing creative process. My simple studio has become a repository of these powerful emotions, which sustain me as I continue the work.
“576” is a work in progress. The completed piece will add up to 576 11” x 8.5” paintings on paper. Each sheet features a series of circular bands centered within a square. The sum of the rings divides equally into the number 24. This configuration provides a means to explore the 24 colors in Wilhelm Ostwald’s color system as well as his principles of color organization and color harmony. I should add that the number 24 was not randomly chosen. Before World War II Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer had associations who were communists. All of them had been thoroughly examined by the Army when it cleared him in 1943 and by the Atomic Energy Commission when it cleared him in 1947. In December 1953, they became the basis of new charges and the Atomic Energy Commission formally indicted him with disloyalty and suspended his security clearance. He decided to answer the charges against him and asked for a hearing to clear his name. But instead of the objective inquiry called for by the Atomic Energy Commission’s rules, he was subjected to an unfair trial that extended over a 24-day period.
I have complete faith in Dr. Oppenheimer’s loyalty to the United States of America. He loved this country and would never have done anything to jeopardize it. I felt it was my duty to affirm the very thing for which he was wrongly prosecuted (i.e. his loyalty). To carry out this endeavor, I made the number of hours that Dr. Oppenheimer endured during his security hearing the basis for a work of art. (24 days x 24 hours = 576 hours).