Immortality, Memory, Creativity, and Survival; Ori Z Soltes, Editor

Immortality, Memory, Creativity, and Survival:
The Arts of Alice Lok Cahana, Ronnie Cahana and Kitra Cahana

Jewish Art Salon Advisor Ori Z. Soltes edited the volume and wrote the first essay, which explores the arts of the multi-valent Cahana family and is illustrated with 51 full-color images as well as 30 archival and recent photographs that carry from Alice’s grandparents to the array of her husband, three children, and nine grandchildren—whose numbers, like their creativity, defeated Hitler’s exterminationist ambitions.

This powerful story of personal survival against crushing odds is explored against multiple backgrounds.

This publication is by The Fritz Ascher Society for Persecuted, Ostracized, and Banned ArtRachel Stern, Executive Director of The Fritz Ascher Society states, “This innovative interdisciplinary publication investigates the long term effect of trauma and memory. Looking at three generations of the Cahana family and their art in the context of biological and psychological research, a complex understanding develops of how trauma and especially the Holocaust experience is remembered. This publication offers an important contribution to the fields of Holocaust studies, art history, history, psychology, and biology.”

Alice Lok Cahana (1929 – 2017) was a teenager from Sarvar, Hungary who survived four different camps in the last year of the war, losing every member of her extended family, except for her father and including her beloved older sister, Edith—who survived, only to perish from illness immediately after liberation: she entered a hospital, and Alice never saw her again.

Alice swore an oath to herself while in the camps that, if she survived, she would become an artist and draw rainbows out of the ashes of her experience. She not only became an artist, she produced three offspring, and among them her oldest son, Ronnie, intensely responsive to his mother’s history, became a poet. Ronnie’s oldest daughter, Kitra, became a filmmaker and photographer whose singular touch of empathy with her subjects in part reflects, as she has said, growing up in the shadow of her grandmother’s experience.

One of Kitra’s more extraordinary bodies of work focuses on her father after a brain-stem stroke forced him into an initial bed-ridden condition, not able to breathe on his own, but still writing poetry in his mind. The family rallied around him, and began to write out his poems by following his eye-blinks, one lecer at a time.

This essay, placing Alice and her family within a historical and art historical context, is supplemented by three essays by prominent figures in the psychological and scientific community. Larry R. Squire and John T. Wixted write about remembering and how the processes of different sorts of memory are shaped in different parts of the brain. Natan P. F. Kellermann writes about old and new theories of trauma and whether and how they may be transmiced from one generaOon to the next within the DNA. Eva Fogelman, a path-breaking authority on the consequences of Holocaust trauma for the children and grandchildren of survivors, discusses the research on that growing area of interest against the backdrop of interviews with Ronnie and Kitra and other members of the Cahana family.


Detail of Alice Lok Cahana, Raoul Wallenberg—Schutz Pass, Kitra Cahana, The Cult of Maria Lionza: Fire, 2009 93 1⁄4 × 112 inches, mixed media on canvas and paper, 1981. ©Kitra Cahana
Courtesy Cahana family archives

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This publication is generously sponsored by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New York.