Claire Boren: Artist Statement
During World War II, from October 13, 1942, through the spring of 1944, my mother and I were in hiding in Poland. In order to survive, we hid in houses, attics, and in the forest. My mother and I also spent three long months in a hole in the ground in a barn under a pig. In total, six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. 1.5 million were children. Only 11% of all Jewish children survived. I am one of the 11%.
I reconnected to my childhood traumas through my art when I started creating abstract pieces in 1995, after many years of creating realistic and figurative work. This was during a period in my life when my world had become contracted and isolated. Shifting to abstract work in mixed media enabled me to extend my interior world out to the exterior one of my art. It surprised me how my situation at the time, paired with my art-making process, unlocked past experiences and memories of my childhood during the Holocaust. I would pick up found objects at random, work on a piece and only then discover the meaning—each time creating an unexpected dialogue between the objects, the media, my thoughts and feelings, and ultimately the finished piece.
I begin painting in an explosive, spontaneous manner, later developing the work more deliberately. I use thick oil sticks directly on the paper without the intermediary of tools, at times layering acrylic washes, and then working in pen, pencil and other media.
Following tragic events like the attack on the Central Park jogger, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or hate crimes in America, I find myself working compulsively, a reaction that relates directly to my own childhood traumas. I sometimes do not make this connection until years later. For example, my collaged box about the Central Park Jogger, with its ominous New York City skyline and forest, recalls my own time spent in the woods living with the constant fear of being caught. Both the box entitled No Exit, a response to the events of 9/11, and the Trap series of paintings, evoke feelings of being entrapped and having no exit—as many victims experienced during the Holocaust, as well as during other horrific atrocities against mankind.