My paintings yearn to express the glaring dichotomy between the horror of the Holocaust and the fantasies of Hollywood, which, while attracting the eyes of the world, turned its eyes away from the greatest atrocity of the 20th century.
I began quite innocently with an exploration of a popular cartoon character, Betty Boop. Juxtaposing her with “real” people, I saw in her eyes, ever turned-up-and-away, the part of us that wants to deny what is actually taking place on a personal, social, and global level. It wasn’t until I painted her under a fiery red sky that I suddenly knew I was entering the world of the Holocaust—a horrific time personally—which previously I had found too terrifying to explore in my painting.
In 2013, with the publication of Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration, Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler, I discovered why movies horrendously ignored the Holocaust, instead captivating me and the recovering world with the glamour, fantasy and romance of blockbusters like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Even after General Eisenhower ordered filming of the death camps to document the machinery that systematically murdered millions, there was little response by the American film industry. The silence lasted decades, with only a trickle of films hinting at the reality of the savagery.
My work confronts the Hollywood of that time, when Europe and most of the world abandoned Jews, gays, and other victims of the camps. My visual exploration of the conflict between what was happening and what was portrayed culminated with the painting Denial, a triptych of an Auschwitz landscape. This painting opened the door to further expressions of the Holocaust through the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality using motifs and actors from popular films of that time.
By focusing attention on how the world turned away from the Holocaust, and how we continue to turn our eyes away from global suffering, I counter our collective indifference to inhumanity through my art. My greatest hope is to contribute to a dialogue that cultivates healing.
After receiving several scholarships to study art in New York City, Betty Palmer moved to Israel where she painted and taught art. An exhibition of Moroccan, Egyptian, Yemenite, and Kurdistan children’s works from six Negev collectives was sent on tour throughout Israel and later exhibited at the Educational Alliance in NYC. Her work was exhibited in group shows in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and several kibbutzim. Her upcoming solo show will be at The Phatory Gallery, 618 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009, with an opening reception on Thursday, May 11th, from 7-9 pm.
Ms. Palmer worked as an art director, graphic designer, and illustrator at Warren Kremer Advertising, and designed book jackets for Oxford University Press and Schocken Books. She completed her BFA and Independent Study at Empire State College–State University of New York.
Private collections containing her paintings and portraits include that of Belle Linsky, a major donor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Parson’s School of Design
Full Scholarship award
Museum of Modern Art School
BFA, State University of New York
at Empire State College
School of Visual Arts
Art Students League