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My Life Into Art: An Autobiography Paperback – August 23, 2007
About the Author
Judith Weinshall Liberman came to the U.S. from Israel (then Palestine) in 1947 to pursue higher education. After earning four degrees in social studies and law, she turned to art and became best known for her artwork on the Holocaust. She is the author of three other published books. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The book begins with her growing up in Israel. Her parents denied her nothing; but they did not coddle her. They expected her to use the resources that wealth could bring -- the best tutors and educators for example -- to grow up and make her contribution to society. Not being a Jew, I learned something about a refined and morally conservative upbringing in a modern Jewish home.
Another valuable thing I took from the book was the inspiration from the author's tremendous efforts at self-development in whatever she did. She had extremely high standards in each of her professions - law, art, medical support, and computer programming. I learn from people who have high standards, and she certainly does.
The author's lengthy period of professional development, her years of study of several artistic media, her ability to blend these media into a coherent artistic expression, form another of the most interesting parts of the book. Unlike many artists, she provides detailed and interesting windows into the process of creating a work of art. Remarkably, she never sought to sell her art. She generally gave her art away and clearly felt the most fulfillment from doing so. She is primarily an educator.
One of the major themes of the book is that her parents and friends expected her to return to Israel after receiving her education in America; but after efforts to return and live there, she was unable to do so. She is deeply devoted to Israel's best interests, and wanted very much to fulfill the expectation that she would contribute to the development of the new state of Israel. Later in life, after a successful career as a professor of international law, she entered the field of art. She closely identified with Anne Frank, and was drawn to portray images related to the Holocaust -- indeed, became one of the premier artists portraying the Holocaust -- and eventually succeeded in fulfilling her aspiration of serving Israel. Her invitation to display her work at Yad Vashem, the Israeli center to memorialize the Holocaust, was the height of her artistic expression and her service to her people and to all people. This bestowal by Israel of acceptance of her art was clearly a most meaningful and gratifying fulfillment, and answered her question whether her decision to remain in the USA and not in her beloved Israel was the right one. This was a redemption of sorts, from the criticism from others who thought she should have remained in Israel. It also emerged as a worthy response to the enormous investment in her development, made by her lawyer father and artist mother.
As a non-Jew facing the Holocaust, though I have read some books about it, I have found it too horrible to contemplate for very long, or in too great a depth. The author brought herself to look it in the face, to stare at it and plumb the full scope and depth of the methodical murder of a race; and responded artistically in a way that the art viewer can receive and begin to understand. Jews don't ask much of the rest of us about the Holocaust. They ask us to know that it happened, and something of the loss of humanity and culture represented by the murder of so many people, including more than a million children; and they ask us to make sure it never happens again. That's not a lot to ask. When I visit the East Coast I will make it a point look up her archives in the Fine Arts Department of the Boston Public Library.
I particularly enjoyed the chapters about the author's relationship with her husband, Bob--their courtship and marriage, their shared life as law professors; their mutual support; and particularly their dealing with the challenges brought about by his succession of strokes. Some of their best years were after his first stroke. Loyalty to one's spouse is important to me, and the relationship between this couple is worth emulating. I found it fascinating that he was one of the American Jews serving in the US Army in WWII who personally witnessed the death camp at Dachau after its liberation.
I would have liked more about her life in Israel, as I'm interested in that period in the history of the Holy Land -- the last years of the British Mandate, and the beginning years of the statehood of Israel. A minor criticism I would make is that on a couple of occasions she went into too much detail, such as the layout of a house; but she soon got back into her rhythm. For these reasons I gave the book four stars (I wish four-and-one-half had been an option). I unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone interested in the themes of this interesting, well-written, and honest book.
Review by Mary Ann Brodie. October 5, 2007
In her autobiography, My Life into Art, Judith Weinshall Liberman tells her astonishing life story from her childhood in Israel through university life in America and her growth and development into a very fine artist. Her parents communicated messages (injunctions) about what she needed to do in order to fulfill their desires. Her father instilled in her the need for an excellent education and for helping the Jewish people. Her mother indirectly communicated that art was the most important thing. Judith Liberman remarkably synthesized these hopes and expressed them in her own special way exceptionally successfully. She found her way to do both.
In addition to "a very good read," her autobiography has taught us many things. (I love it when a book does that). Judith Liberman earned honors at the University of Chicago Law School and she explains her own special way of studying. In her art, she devised new techniques and found numerous ways to express herself. She shares feelings and observation and has produced an excellent and memorable book.
My Life into Art is an easy read; one moves with interest from chapter to chapter, eager to learn where things will go next in a narrative that offers itself as a continual meditation on what art is, what history is, what Judaism is and what it means to contribute something to the world--something that survives beyond one's own life. Thus this memoir is part of a larger artistic legacy the shaping of which it sums up with its own elegant shape.