Arbeit Macht Frei/Work Makes Who Free? by Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman.
Sprayed acrylic on metal, wood, and photography on photolinen and canvas. (67” x 143”)

Artists have a unique freedom to be able to create whatever they want in order to communicate their intended message(s). It is with this freedom artists can not only raise awareness about the impacts and affects of genocides, but they can also share their stories as survivors. Some of the greatest artworks come from real world experience and it is an unfortunate fact that some of those experiences in life include suffering. It is a sobering thought the amount of genocides that have taken place through out human history, and I believe it is a responsibility that artists do not let us forget.

Upon my perusing other art blogs and articles and websites I came across a unique way of approaching the topic of Art and Genocide— by creating four different categories. Those categories are as follows: art created by the victims, outside art, remembrance art, and art created by those inflicting the genocide (Nazi propaganda for example). I feel that by dividing the overall subject into those four categories makes it much easier to tackle as a subject, so I too will be using those same categories to discuss Art and Genocide.

Gassing by David Olère. (131 x 162 cm)

Looking back at art created by the victims/survivors of a genocide provides a first hand account of what really happened during the events. Speaking from personal experience some of the most memorable artwork I have ever seen were the sketches done on the walls of cells of the Japanese Internment camps that were used during World War II.

Outsider art as well as remembrance art both function in a similar way. Typically created by those outside and in the aftermath of the event to call attention to the genocide(s) that occurred. These forms can come in many different medias such as traditional fine arts, political cartoons, and memorial sites. These art works serve to continue on where the art created by victims leaves off. As long as artists continue to create art that calls back to these moments in history there is hope that we truly won’t forget.

There is a very important role that art plays during genocides besides showing the victims view, and that is the role of propaganda. Despite artists abilities to show us humanity and the very real impacts of genocide. Artists and the art they create can do just as much harm by convincing bystanders that the acts taking place during a genocide are necessary to achieve whatever goal.

As artists it is our job to not only improve upon the aesthetics of life and share our emotions and opinions, but it should also be a part of our job to ensure that we learn from our shared collective past. We shouldn’t allow our histories to be forgotten or swept under the proverbial rug.

Just a few of many artists who have either documented their time during a genocide or have created art afterwords:

Moshe Rynecki

Jan Komski

Felix Nussbaum

Josef Nassy

Eric Taylor

Edith Birkin

Judy Chicago

Nandor Glid


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Savannah L. Haid has an Associates of Applied Science of Graphic Design from Tidewater Community College, and is currently working on her Bachelor’s in Drawing and Design. She is a sensitive soul who enjoys creating, reading, binge watching and taking care of her fur babies. She is just trying to do her best to navigate her way through adulthood, college, and homeownership at the overwhelming age of 24.