Art exhibits illustrate comic books featuring Holocaust superheroes
The three-part series, constructed by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, focuses on the art of resistance, local stories and child survivors.
Concurring exhibits aim to contextualize the comic book creations constructed by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. Between both Pittsburgh-based displays, viewers are invited to glean greater insight into the makings of the CHUTZ-POW! series, said Lauren Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.
Beginning Sunday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m., material from the comic book’s first two volumes will be presented at a scheduled exhibition within the Holocaust Center. The exhibit, titled “CHUTZ-POW! The Art of Resistance,” allows participants to “engage in their own art-making process” and features “never-before-seen process art,” said Bairnsfather.
“We looked at the stories in Volumes I and II and pulled out different categories of resistance. People who come will see the art and will also learn about partisans, which is what people normally think about when they think about resistance, armed resistance, but also about nonviolent types of resistance like escape and rescue.”
While Volume I of the CHUTZ-POW! series featured five survivors who eventually settled in Pittsburgh, Volume II shared stories of “more globally well-known figures.”
Pairing both volumes through text panels allows exhibit-goers to appreciate comparable narratives, “like the Moshe Baran story of fighting as a partisan in Volume I with the Bielski partisans in Volume II,” explained Bairnsfather.
Although “CHUTZ-POW! The Art of Resistance” opens this Sunday, the American Jewish Museum at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh has showcased a sister display since Jan. 22.
Titled, “CHUTZ-POW! Superheroes of the Holocaust: Volume III, The Young Survivors,” the American Jewish Museum exhibit features material from the comic book series’ newest installment.
“Viewers will be intrigued by the interconnected relationship between the caliber of skill in the drawings, the writers’ evocative interpretation of the narratives and the sheer power of the survivors’ childhood experiences,” said Melissa Hiller, the museum’s director.
Given the focus — the trials and travails of Holocaust youth — the work, both as it is displayed in exhibit form and in comic book print, is stirring, said Marcel Lamont Walker, CHUTZ-POW! project coordinator.
“I think Volume III may hit an emotional place for most readers that other volumes haven’t or won’t,” he said. “Just because of the nature of the story, you can’t read stories about children enduring things like this and not be affected.”
Even apart from the age of those illustrated, the familiarity of the subjects themselves should increase accessibility to the newest issue, added Bairnsfather.
“Volume III is the young survivors, so it’s the stories of a lot of survivors that we know well in Pittsburgh, and it’s also stories of survivors that many students across the region have met, so it will have that significance for the teachers and students who are going to see it and incorporate it into the classroom.”
Although CHUTZ-POW! remains a print-only read, Bairnsfather envisions the comic books one day entering the digital sphere.
“We’re talking about that. It is my hope that we will be able to have a digital copy of it. It would be especially good for classrooms because they often just buy a book and use it for a decade and a comic book isn’t quite as sturdy as most textbooks. It would be really useful for teachers to use a digital copy, so we’re working on that.”
Future CHUTZ-POW! plans also include more volumes, added Walker.
“There are several other themes waiting to be explored,” said the artist. Such installments may address “women’s stories and stories of those who were in the military, and that would be different militaries in the world.”
But before that page is turned, Holocaust Center employees would like to encourage people to attend both exhibits and purchase the newest CHUTZ-POW! volume.
Tickets to the Feb. 11 opening of the Holocaust Center exhibit, at 826 Hazelwood Ave. in Pittsburgh can be purchased online at hcofpgh.org/chutzpow3. Tickets are $5; free for students (with valid ID) and Holocaust survivors.
Copies of “CHUTZ-POW! Volume III: The Young Survivors” are also available online at hcofpgh.org/chutzpow.
Copies, which will be available for purchase at the Feb. 11 event, are $3.99 each and half price for educators and for educational use, said Bairnsfather.
The American Jewish Museum’s exhibit, which includes 36 original storyboard illustrations, runs through April 20 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz