My  grandparents were Russian-Jewish immigrants who settled in Argentina in 1913, shortly before World War I. They decided to leave their country because of Czarist persecution and discrimination against the Jewish people, and also because of his Army who used to fiercely draft very young boys who never came back to their homes.

They were not able to pack many of their belongings, but they did bring with them a samovar, a mandolin, and a sewing machine. In their new country they began to rebuild their lives, always preserving their traditions, language and cultural heritage. The samovar came to my home with all the family memories and I decided to preserve them in my paintings.

When I painted the series “From Life,” “Life’s Windows,” and “The Brides,” I used all those old photos to portray the negative and positive aspects of life. From then on I could never separate Life from Art. My series “Life’s Experiences” is related to the dictatorship in Argentina when more than 30.000 people “disappeared.” Many youth who believed in justice were arrested, tortured and eventually killed by the authorities. In that series I tell of my own pain for the disappearance and later imprisonment of my daughter.

After that I produced the series “Clothes.” By painting clothes without people I portrayed the life of my only son, who suffered depression during those horrible years, until he could not bear it anymore and committed suicide.

For many years  I had been painting with oils; after that I switched to oil pastels and acrylics. My palette became more colorful. When I decided to begin my series “The Jewish People” I thought I was going to need a different material to portray Jewish life through time and space. I found it in fabric collage and relief collage. Later I used this technique to paint “Women of the Bible.”

In 1995  I moved to Washington D.C. In this city I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum. I also saw a documentary about the extermination of the Jewish People in concentration camps during Worl War II. It was then that I felt that my series about the Jewish people and the one about the genocide in Argentina were unfinished. I created a new one: “Surviving Genocide” to depict two of the cruelest events on the history of humankind.

Raquel Partnoy