In the 1970’s a ninth grade Hebrew class in Baltimore told their teacher that they did not believe that the Holocaust had truly occurred. As a result, a memorial park was created in 1988. The focal point of the park is a disturbing sculpture by Joseph Sheppard of a pile of emaciated, naked bodies frantically clambering over one another in the final panic-stricken moments of their lives within a gas chamber. The bodies together form the shape of a flame, which suggests the subsequent incineration and disposal of their bodies in the fiery furnaces of the death factories.
The flame shaped figure of the clambering bodies is at the centre of the work.
Abigail has portrayed two of the bodies detached from it, on either side, writhing and consumed by excruciating agony. The dreadful past, represented by Jan van Erkelens’ demonic puppet of the old woman (oude vrouw) – the archetype of the Terrible Mother, is dangling before them in mid-air and is actively tormenting them. At the same time, at the base of the central figure a large pair of open hands, presumably those of G-d or His proxy, is busy releasing masses of butterflies that are flitting upwards as symbols of rebirth. A large butterfly hovers over each of the detached bodies suggesting that G-d was immediately spiritually present with the victims at the moments of their torment and death, working to actively counter the evil forces at work.
The artist plays a far more active role as a participant in this work. She makes a dramatic entrance at the top right, sailing into the scene on a dove of peace encircled by a brightly shining mandala, armed with her paint-brush which is poised and ready to paint. Below the open hands of G-d, she has settled at her easel and is at the centre of a very energetic working scene in which she is spiritually active to also counter the evil and demonic forces at play. Thus, she is busily painting a large hand holding up a rose, as if to stimulate G-d’s hands in their work of releasing the butterflies. At the same time she is directly engaging the viewer with her eyes to also participate in her spiritual work. She is surrounded by a bevy of busy, flitting angelic spirit fairies, and is engaging with them to inspire them to do their work. All of this spiritual energy has given birth to an outpouring of natural beauty and energy in the form of flowers of the South African flora on which the Cape sugarbird reappears. The artist is working with G-d and making the world blossom anew in anticipation of the rebirth of the tormented souls of the Holocaust.