1- One Man's Example: Aron witnessed evil first-hand and lost everything but his life when he became a prisoner of the Nazis at age 17 for four long years. After the war Aron sought sanctuary in Los Angeles where he spent the rest of his life painting. His story is told in the new book , Into the Light: the Healing Art of Kalman Aron by Susan Beilby Magee.
2- The First Meeting: At age six Magee met Kalman Aron when he painted her portrait. Fifty years later, he asked her to tell his story. Says Magee: I wanted to learn how he survived, how the Holocaust affected his life and how he responded to the experience.
3- Survival and Healing: Beilby continues: I quickly learned he survived by learning to be invisible—visibility equaled death; sketching guards for extra morsels of food; never giving up hope; staying connected to nature; and making split-second decisions. He then spent a lifetime painting, working out on canvas what he witnessed, and in the process he healed himself. Three universal themes of transformation
4- The Healing Power of Nature: Aron started painting landscapes as a young boy in Riga. Bunker Hill reveals his interior wasteland when he first arrived in Los Angeles. All grey, it is lifeless with no color, people, animals or trees.
5- Thirty years later Balcony View from my Studio reveals that he has recaptured the texture, color and spirit of his own life. Los Angeles has become a sanctuary, offering balance and harmony. Throughout Aron's life nature sustained and helped him reclaim his light.
6- Healing Through Inner Work: Our interior landscape requires constant attention. Aron's self-portraits reveal his inner journey as he metabolized evil and reclaimed his vitality. He painted Kalman Marching in the Camp shortly after arriving in Los Angeles. The central skeletal figure with dark, hollow holes for eyes, he stands alone, one among many, yet solitary. This is what Aron had to become to survive.
7- Self-portrait at age 43 shows that he has clearly changed. The colorful palette and strong brush strokes reveal a regained vitality. His face has the robust markings of a man who has seen a great deal.
8- Restoring Trust Through Human Interaction: The bond between a mother and her child is one of the most intimate in all human relationships. Brutality can strip away this tenderness, as Aron portrays in Mother and Child II, painted shortly after arriving in America. Having survived the Holocaust, the mother and child stand naked against a barren background. Their eyes are dark, their stare blank and empty.
9- Thirty years later Aron painted Mother Nursing Her Child. The light shed on the mother and child illuminates the love between them. Aron’s mother believed in a world of beauty and love. It is a testament to the human spirit that Aron can recapture such tenderness after the horror he experienced.
10- The Triumph of the Human Spirit: Seeking Freedom Through Remembering : “A human-being is an ever-changing kaleidoscope that reflects our joys and sorrows, unconscious fears and beliefs,” writes Beilby in Into the Light: the Healing Art of Kalman Aron . At some point the pain of burying past trauma becomes greater than the pain of remembering. Just as Aron chose to remember and heal, so may we all. The benefits—achieving an ease with ourselves, letting go of the past, finding new freedoms and taking risks—are boundless.
Slide show adaptation based on The Haunting Artwork of A Survivor, a collaboration courtesy of Susan Beilby Magee, Liz Riviere, and beliefnet.