Dina Babbitt, Art’s third wife and mother of his children, was an artist and a hero in her own right. A Jewish art student in WWII Europe, she survived Auschwitz – and bargained for her mother’s life – by painting portraits of Romani (aka Gypsy) prisoners for the infamous nazi Dr. Mengele. Decades later, her paintings resurfaced in Poland and she fought until her death in 2009 to regain possession of them.
She greatly deserves more than a few simple single blog posts. Fortunately there’s a multi-award-winning book about Dina printed in Poland by Lidia Ostałowska titled Farby Woodneg or “Watercolors.” It’s an unauthorized account of her story and the story of her paintings (whereas the research for this blog and upcoming book has received the help, blessing and permission of Art Babbitt’s family) . Unfortunately, it’s in Polish. But fortunately again, my Polish friend, J.S., has read it and reviewed it especially for this blog.
It is so unique because while reading it you fully support with your heart and mind the voice of Dina, and then the voice of the Museum, and than, in the same way, the voice of Romani people. This is impossible but you support all these three voices equally strong with your heart fully involved even though this is a paradox and contradiction.
And then, there is a lot more to say, like there are moments you actually chose who has, so to speak, more rights to have these drawings from Auschwitz and than you are not sure anymore if this was a right way to think..And then, I made my choice, which is not to say it means anything in the real world. I think the drawings belong to the Roma people who have hardly anything but these drawing to remember the community who perished.
.And then I also think about Dina Babbitt’s way to see things and I think about her as a person. Before reading the book I would find it unexpected and strange to see art in these drawings given the fact who ordered them to be created and why. But then I find it understandable to see the art there, as maybe, this is the way to overcome the context of who ordered the pictures, and I think this is right way to do..So maybe, while reading the book, you let the drawings go from one hand to another and this is the only way it can be. It was quite a while a read the book, but still remember the impression.