Death Is Muse for Israeli Artist Pesi Girsch

Daughter of Holocaust Survivors Sees Beauty in Morbidity

Kobi Kalmanovitz

By Dalia Karpel

Published April 03, 2014.
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(Haaretz) — Rehabilitated cats live peacefully in Pesi Girsch’s bedroom. All 12 cats were injured when they were collected from the curbs in Tel Aviv’s Neveh Tzedek neighborhood, and she took care of them and saved their lives. In her everyday life, as in her art, there are many beautiful dead animals − on condition that “the death is beautiful.” Girsch photographed the cockroaches that she has been collecting for the past four years with their wings spread like fans and their stretched hairs like magnificent horns.

“Pesi Girsch cloaks the cockroach in human garb,” write Naama Haikin in the catalogue. Haikin is the curator of Girsch’s new photography exhibition that opened this week at the Open Museum of Photography at the Tel Hai Industrial Park.

pesi grisch

Another photograph to be displayed at the exhibition features two sleeping geese (dead, of course) with their heads resting on snow-white sheets. A pair of fawns in another photo are shown as a couple whose reunification after death creates a heart shape. Also on display will be a new series, “Photography in Secret,” in which the artist photographs animals that she receives from research laboratories in universities or collects from the street.

Girsch, 60, lives in a two-story building in Neveh Tzedek. Her mother, Rosa Girsch, who lives on the second floor, has been a very dominant figure in Pesi’s life since her childhood in Germany. The family furniture from those days in Munich fills the apartment and is impressively beautiful. The space is crowded and looks like something between an antique shop and a museum area. In the living room there is a collection of miniatures in a glass cupboard next to huge plants and paper flower bouquets and ancient porcelain dishes, and collections of beetles and cockroaches are in the drawers.

“My studio is everywhere, and as you see, the studio is in the house too,” she says.

As in a session with a psychologist she speaks of her life, which was characterized by painful events and was not easy to deal with. There were moments when it looked as though everything intermingles: fact and fiction, the stormy events of her life that gave rise to artistic activity. Her parents were Holocaust survivors who were born in Lithuania and met at the end of the war in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany.

Pesi, the second child, was born in 1954. Her mother dreamed of going to Israel and starting a new life, but her father was opposed. “He visited here several times but said he couldn’t get along with the temperament of the Israeli-born sabras. He said that they’re prickly and tough on the outside, and perhaps soft on the inside − but they don’t let the other person live.”


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