Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday's Art: Gulag

Nikolai Getman
Gnats, 1990

Nikola Getman (1917-2004) was a Ukrainian artist who spent 8 years in a Russian gulag. [Source]. Here is his explanation of the above painting.

"Deadly torture is depicted in this painting, called "Gnats." Even for a minor infraction, such as a rough conversation with the guard, the prisoner could strip naked, hanging in the pose of the crucified Christ on the pine tree and left to be eaten by mosquitoes. After thirty minutes or an hour, the prisoner was removed from the tree. By this time, the prisoner has usually lost so much blood that he was waiting for inevitable slow and painful death. Prisoners were executed in this way outside the camp in front of everybody. In some camps, the victims do not hang on the trees but are cast into the pits." [Source].
Though the guards clearly meant it for evil, one cannot help but see Christ in this painting of gruesome and all-too-real torture. Each of us takes on the pose of the crucified Christ in our suffering: crying at Lazarus' side, praying desperately in Gethsemane, rejected at Nazareth, ridiculed unto death, left to die... He shared in our suffering, and we share in His. It is never in vain, even at the hands of unjustified, pointless cruelty.

"For the death He died He died to sin, once for all,
but the life He lives He lives to God."

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