Bacia Gordon (1904-1977) came to the United States from Poland and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She traveled widely the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Israel. She was a member of, and has exhibited with Artists Equity, Jewish Arts Club, the Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago, The Chicago Art Institute, and in Migdal Ashkalon, Israel. She was also a member of the Chicago Society of Artists. Her work is represented in many private collections in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Paul, Rockford, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Mrs. Gordon spent much time in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s, and most of the works in this web site reflect her stay there.
The New York art critic, Alfred Werner, has said: “I find Mrs. Gordon’s freedom of paint aesthetically rewarding. She blends the reporter’s task of objectively recording appearance with the poet’s privilege of imprinting subjective reaction upon exterior reality. She has infused her personality into the living flesh of an existence that cannot be transported like a parcel but can be felt and resuscitated in feeling. She has avoided the Scylla of sterile abstraction as well as the Charybdis of photographic naturalism. Here is the talent that often omits details, to let the spectator fill in, that prefers an allegorical hint to a straight tale, and that translates the strangeness of Maabaroth and Kibbutzim into terms of universally acceptable humanity”
An Israeli critic has written of Mrs. Gordon : “The Jewish Daughter, born in Lithuania and reared in the United States, was stirred by the miracle of the Ingathering of the Exiles. The men, women and children she pictures thrill and pulsate with life because of her warm and loving brush.”
In program notes to her many exhibits, she has written of her experiences and the motivation for her work in Israel. Some of these writings follow:
I have been privileged as few tourists have been, to come close to the heart of Israel.
My first encounter with Israel in 1955 was inspiring and productive. It was a birds-eye view of the land and the people – the kibbutz, the village, the settlement, the Maabora, the Huleh project, Lachish at its inception, dedicated Israelis, new immigrants and the military of all ranks. I lived among people of many lands sketching and painting. I felt a great urgency to record and interpret. Working at an accelerated pace – line and color merged as I endeavored to express the universal qualities in these people. It was a tremendously stimulating experience and resulted in rechanneling my creative energy.
I sketched and I wandered. I sketched in the Uval Gad where pipes are made to carry water to the Negev. I wandered among the bewildered white-robed bearded men of Morocco in Lachish… and among the older Yemenite settlements in Migdal Ashkalon. In Tiberias I saw people dressed in all garbs, the orthodox mantles of the polish ghetto and the oriental robes of the Middle East. In Hedera I sketched children in their classrooms and laboratories, some working out of doors, and others playing chase on the lawn. And from a mountaintop Huleh Region I painted swamps changing into fertile fields.
I became aware of the contrasts presented by many types — children from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Persia, Morocco, Poland, Germany, Romania — from all over Europe and Asia, some second generation Sabras… now all of them Israelis. Back home, the sketches and memories they evoked intermingled and I found myself concentrating more and more on the Israeli Theme “The Return to the Promised Land.”
Five years later, I was again in Israel for a six-month visit to Lachish. I planned to continue with my project “A Visual Record of Israel Today.” My hosts Mordecai and Rivka Guber offered me a home base in Nehora, a cultural center in Lachish which had been the scene of my earlier experiences in living among newcomers from the mountains of Morocco. Nehora and Tannechim, a similar project in the Galilee, headed by Chanan Cheifetz proved incomparable workshops. I lived in the midst of the Ingathered from nearly every country on the globe, long enough to observe and record the slow process of their integration from rootless strangers into Israelis.
Israel in our time is a land in transition — as an artist I was particularly intent on recording the heterogeneous characteristics of its immigrants. The children were my first models; all of them were eager to pose — children from India, Persia, Kurdistan, Yemen, Morocco, and Europe. Later they invited me to their homes to meet their families and I painted those families in these modern villages permeated with the atmosphere of their indigenous land. I shall never forget a Chanukah performance by the children in Bet Am, where I helped with the makeup of the little actors. To they youngsters it was an amusing form of play as I overlaid their golden, fresh faces with the green color of malnutrition and the sickly lines of pain. They were enthusiastic about their roles as children of the “ghettos” – they had never known the nightmare of their parents now in the audience.
Again in Israel last summer – the usual excitement plus new experiences, meeting with family, old friends, and making new friends. On a field trip thru the Negev to Eilat with Hartzfeld, stopping at small settlements, kibbutzim new and old, Massada, Ein Gedi – meeting the dedicated visionary of the Dead Sea, Yehuda Almog. As I listened, observed and sketched these early pioneers I began to see Israel through through their eyes. Some of them still play a vital role in the Israeli scene and are becoming a legend in their own lifetimes. They came to this land when it was a desert and a swamp and lived to see the fulfillment of their dreams – a state of Israel – A home for the Jewish People. They are revered today and will remain heroes in the contemporary history of Israel.
The children I painted in Lachish during my previous trip grew up and many found their places in Israeli society according to their abilities and interests. My friend Shoshana Ben Tulila, whose traditional Moroccan wedding I attended five years earlier, is now a teacher and mother of two. She introduced me to the children in her village school “Operation Head-Start” where I came again and again to paint a new generation whose heritage is the heterogeneous culture of their ingathered parents. These children, I felt, are the promise and hope of Israel and should create an oasis in our world of prejudices and may yet contribute toward a solution of threatening problems of our time.
The reaction of the Israel Press to my exhibition in Tel Aviv was that it “could serve as a historical document for generations to come.” Here are Jews rescued from the ghettos of Hungary, Poland, Lithuania: you can still see the lines of suffering on their faces. Here is a Yemenite family in their native dress, the young wife beside the children of the elderly husband she has married in accordance with Yemen Traditions that will soon be a relic of the past. Here are Jews from Morocco, Iran, Persia, India, and Egypt that have not yet lost the marks of their origin in this newest of national melting pots.