Where the Present Meets the Past: “Still . . . Life"

June 10, 2016

By Echo Martin

The structures of today morph into history alongside the innovations of tomorrow. This idea lays the groundwork behind the exhibition “Still . . . Life,” a collaboration between three professors: Neil Anderson in the Department of Horticultural Science, Lynn Silverman in the Department of Photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the late Mark Gilquist, who taught K–12 in the Department of Mathematics at Champlin Park High School, ISD-11.

During the 2010–2011 school year, when Neil and Lynn were on Fulbright sabbaticals in the Czech Republic, the three artists traveled to Jewish cemeteries around Bohemia and Moravia as an alternate way to explore the history of the Holocaust than the better-known concentration camps. Silverman’s photographs document the intersection of modern Czech life with the Jewish cemeteries that were desecrated during the Holocaust. Anderson catalogues the various plants growing wild in these often overlooked places, including native and non-native sympathy plants that still thrive even seventy years after the violence of World War II. Taken from his wheelchair, Gilquists’ photographs provide a unique perspective on the destruction that took place.

The layout of the exhibit is reminiscent of the often-ignored walls of the cemeteries. Each photograph is flush with the wall as if you’re peeking through a gap in the cemetery wall. Real vinca plants from the cemeteries in the Czech Republic grow along the floor as if trying to escape into the modern world while ivy cascades down from the top of the exhibit. The contributions from the three artists combine to form a powerful narrative of how life continues in tandem with the past.