Artist of Beloved: Children of the Holocaust to give talk Thursday in Sumter

BY IVY MOORE
Features contributor
Posted 6/11/19

Artist Mary Burkett will give an artist talk on her exhibition titled Beloved: Children of the Holocaust at 6 p.m. Thursday at Temple Sinai Jewish History Center. The free event also marks the final night of the four-week exhibition of her 27 pencil …

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Artist of Beloved: Children of the Holocaust to give talk Thursday in Sumter

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Artist Mary Burkett will give an artist talk on her exhibition titled Beloved: Children of the Holocaust at 6 p.m. Thursday at Temple Sinai Jewish History Center. The free event also marks the final night of the four-week exhibition of her 27 pencil drawings of children who were victims of the Holocaust.

Burkett, who has no formal training in art, said her project began in 2017 when she decided to learn to draw. The resulting drawings are faithful portraits of the children.

"I found a picture of a little boy on Pinterest (an Internet site), and I just knew I was supposed to draw him," she said. "In the beginning, I didn't know he had died in the Holocaust. In just a few hours, he came to life, and I was entirely amazed."

Upon completing his portrait, Burkett began searching for other children who had died in the Holocaust. Seven months later, working at her kitchen table in West Columbia, she had drawn 27, finishing in July 2017.

"In many ways, it was heartbreaking to draw them but also a great honor," she said. "I feel tremendously close to them as I'm drawing, and I feel their parents and grandparents close by. The lasting impact on me is that I love them. I feel they have been entrusted to me in some indefinable way."

In her book titled "An Unexpected Year: The Story of the Beloved Portraits," Burkett writes of the guiding principles for her drawings, including "honor(ing) the life of the child I was drawing" and drawing them "as faithfully as my abilities would allow." She wrote that she prays over each blank page before beginning the portraits.

Viewers of the portraits are also deeply affected by the drawings, Burkett said, explaining that "People are deeply moved by their innocent faces, and I think they cause us to consider the dignity of human life and our responsibility to our fellow man."

She said that she did not expect such a strong reaction around the country and the world to her drawings, which have been recognized in the U.S. Congressional Record by the House of Representatives and displayed in the Paris and Washington, D.C., Israeli embassies. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer called the portraits "a light in the darkness."

While the children's portraits are not for sale, they are available for exhibit at no cost. The sole adult portraits, Dr. Korczak and the Orphan Child, can be purchased at maryburkettart.com; sales help to fund the exhibit.

The public is invited to an artist talk by Mary Burkett on her exhibition titled Beloved: Children of the Holocaust at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Temple Sinai Jewish History Center, 11 Church St. Admission is free. For more information, call the Sumter County Museum at (803) 775-0908.

Burkett's book, "An Unexpected Year: The Story of the Beloved Portraits," is available at www.amazon.com.