Inspiring Action Against Antisemitism Through Art
Art Against Antisemitism is a community initiative featuring artists of all backgrounds whose work encourages viewers to learn about antisemitism in a way that feels personal, meaningful, and impactful.
The project was started in 2019 by artist Lisa Link after she won a Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) art contest. Since then, Link has brought together a diverse array of artists to contribute to the project’s growing collection.
One participating artist is UK-based Caren Garfen, who specializes in hand-stitched textile artworks that deliver powerful messages on social issues. In recent years, her focus has been the Holocaust and rising contemporary antisemitism across the globe.
“I am inspired by so many things,” Garfen told CAM. “It could be a sentence that I have read in a book, imagery seen in a documentary, or a conversation with a friend regarding a member of their family who had been murdered in the Holocaust. I am also drawn to objects that can tell a story when combined with my research and hand stitching.”
In one of her pieces, titled “Else & Edgard,” which can be viewed in detail here, Garfen memorialized Holocaust victims Else and Edgard Lehman, a Jewish couple who perished in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“Regarding Else Lehman, the viewer may be drawn in by the cosmetic powder compact but then looking closer, may focus on the woman’s facial expression which shows a deep sadness,” Garfen said. “The reason behind this is revealed as they come closer still to view the hand stitched image of the concentration camp and read the tiny handsewn text which tells the whole story.”
Another of Garfen’s pieces, titled “Ladybird Ladybird,” which can be viewed in detail here, is in remembrance of the 1.5 million Jewish children and babies exterminated by the Nazis.
“This was one of the most difficult pieces I have created,” Garfen commented. “I had steered clear of making artworks relating to children for a long time, because when you read about how young children were treated and how they suffered, it’s just too painful.”
In “Stand Up and Be Counted,” which can be viewed in detail here, Garfen highlights the plight of the nearly one million Jews of the Arab world who were expelled from their homes or forced to flee after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
“Stand Up and Be Counted” was acquired by the Jewish Museum of London in 2019.
“I believe that art can help fight antisemitism,” Garfen concluded. “It can put a spotlight on what is happening today. There is a lot of misinformation circulating in universities in the U.S. and in the UK relating to Jewish people and the Holocaust, so I feel that my work could be an important step forward if it were exhibited in facilities of further education.”