Iron­i­cal­ly, my first aware­ness of actu­al­ly being moved to tears by a work of art, was not in a muse­um nor an art book, but from a draw­ing my father had done, after the war, in Bergen-Belsen in 1946. My father’s draw­ing. My father had nev­er spo­ken of ever hav­ing made any art. In real­i­ty, except for this one draw­ing, he hadn’t, not before nor after.

In 1949, among the few things my par­ents brought to Amer­i­ca with them was an old black leather suit­case. I loved this old suit­case: the smell of it and the feel of it. I loved look­ing through the suit­case and see­ing a few old pho­tographs, as well as some Yid­dish writ­ings kept in a fad­ed black leather jour­nal. One day, alone in my room, look­ing through the suit­case, I found a Yid­dish jour­nal my father had kept after the war. Among the thin yel­lowed papers, a draw­ing fell to the floor. It was sim­ply beautiful.

I ran to my father with this pen­cil draw­ing, breath­less. The draw­ing, in fine pen­cil, was of a sun ris­ing up over a barn. Out­side the barn, ani­mals and trees lined the walk­way. The marks were abstract and sim­ple. There was a strong sense of per­spec­tive, and the work seemed to hold a great deal of emo­tion. I was fas­ci­nat­ed. I had nev­er seen my father draw anything.

My father rec­ol­lect­ed that one clear, cool morn­ing, after he and my moth­er were mar­ried and still liv­ing in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp, the view of the sun ris­ing made his heart sing and the need to draw what he was wit­ness­ing was all con­sum­ing. When he told the sto­ry, I felt like cry­ing. A sun! A pic­ture of a sun ris­ing in Bergen-Belsen. To cap­ture the sim­ple joy of the sun. My father was moved to make a mark. Remark­able. This draw­ing of the sun ris­ing in such a bleak place expressed hope. Roland Barthes writes that love is found in a moment of recog­ni­tion. In that very moment, alone with my father, and this draw­ing, I fell in love with the pow­er of art. Art can make you feel. I believe this recog­ni­tion was the first of many, con­firm­ing my desire to paint. To make art. I didn’t know it then, but now, look­ing back, I real­ize that see­ing my father’s draw­ing was my first aware­ness that a draw­ing, a mark on a piece of paper, could make one feel some­thing. The draw­ing expressed the pow­er and abil­i­ty of art to hold onto mem­o­ry, expe­ri­ences and emotion.

My moth­er framed this draw­ing in a beau­ti­ful cher­ry-wood box frame. This work, in the same frame, has hung in every house I have ever lived in, for the past six­ty years.

My father had found a way to express what he was see­ing and feel­ing after the war. This draw­ing opened my eyes and heart to the real­i­ty that art and life, inter­twined, was mean­ing­ful. And there began my search to under­stand both.

Mindy Weisel, an inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned artist, author and speak­er, was elect­ed into the Smith­son­ian Archives of Amer­i­can Artists in 2000. Her works are in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tions of the Nation­al Muse­um of Amer­i­can Art, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty and the Israel Muse­um, among many oth­er pub­lic and pri­vate col­lec­tions. Weisel is the author of Daugh­ters of Absence: Trans­form­ing a Lega­cy of Loss and Touch­ing Qui­et: Reflec­tions in Soli­tude. She is also a mem­ber of the Unit­ed States Art in Embassies pro­gram. Weisel lived and worked, for over forty years, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and now resides in Jerusalem with her husband.