How refreshing to review the artwork of someone who actually knows how to draw and is not afraid to use that skill to express strong emotions and political opinions! Francisco Goya did it! Pablo Picasso did it! Theodore Gericault did it! Nomi Silverman does it!
Silverman’s exhibition, “Palpable Process,” at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking, is a small sampling of her artistic output which includes sculpture, painting, pastels and bookmaking, in addition to her prints.
The theme uniting all Silverman’s works is an exploration of the stress of modern life and the extreme stress of peoples’ migrations from one locale to another. She uses the human figure again and again to depict this stress. For her, immigration is embedded in her personal history. She writes, “My family, like so many others, left the home they knew in Minsk, Belarus for a better life in America, the land of opportunity. The pogroms — foreshadowing the horrors of the Holocaust that would take the lives of so many of my family members who stayed behind — was one of many reasons my grandmother, grandfather and uncle boarded a boat in 1930 and landed in New York, where my mother, and eventually I, was born.”
This personal history appears to be the inspiration behind almost all of Silverman’s artwork. The pain and dislocation of immigration is artistically expressed in her leather-bound artist-book, “I Had a Home once, Syria; I Live in Berlin,” unfortunately not part of this exhibition. The accordion book won the CCP First Prize juried award that resulted in Silverman’s solo exhibition. The book may be viewed on her website. Her written story of Abdullah’s forced migration from Damascus to Berlin demonstrates that she is an excellent writer as well as a printmaker.
“Diaspora IV,” an intaglio etching, is one of Silverman’s bleakest images, appropriately created in black ink on white paper. A foreground group of figures, people almost reduced to broken tree stumps, face a white gap of space (a river? an open field?) Will they cross the space to a gloomy “forest” beyond which a row of lights seems to beckon? Their chance of survival seems slim. Technically, the print uses a wide variety of etching techniques: stylus, aquatint, wax crayon, drypoint and many others. It would be fascinating to watch a video of Silverman creating this plate.