Ida Piller-Greenspan, an award-winning artist and Holocaust survivor, will exhibit her monotypes and present a slide show of her work April 1 at Colorado State University as part of Holocaust Awareness Week.
Piller-Greenspan’s presentation will be at 7 p.m. in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center. Her slide show and lecture will center on a pictorial diary of 45 monotypes depicting her memories of her harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. The original series of internationally renowned monotypes, titled "When the World Closed Its Doors," will be exhibited in the Lory Student Center Art Lounge from March 30-April 4.
Piller-Greenspan received her bachelor of arts in fine arts from Queens College and has lectured on the history of art, printmaking and sculpture. She also has taught courses in painting and ceramics.
She has shown her work in numerous exhibits in the United States and abroad, including exhibitions at the Museum of the Ghetto Fighters (Asherat, Israel); the American Gathering for Holocaust Survivors (Washington, D.C.); the Paul Klapper Art Center, Queens College (Flushing, N.Y.); the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton (Dayton, Ohio); Cork Gallery at Lincoln Center (New York, N.Y.); the UNESCO Slide Exhibit (Germany); and the Queensborough Art Society (Queens, N.Y.).
Her work has appeared in many art publications and reviews, including a close-up in "Newsday" and a special mention in the Gallery Guide of "Artspeak."
Piller-Greenspan began her career as an artist upon arriving in the United States. It wasn’t until 1979, nearly 40 years after her flight from the Nazis, that Piller-Greenspan decided to record her memories using black-and-white monotypes to tell her story.
On May 9, 1940, Ida and her new husband, Maurice Piller, were awakened on their wedding night by the sounds of bombing. In the room in Brussels, Belgium, where the couple’s honeymoon began, the radio announcer called for help as the Nazis began their invasion of Belgium.
They quickly returned to their home in Antwerp, only to discover that Ida’s family had already left. The newlyweds’ first attempt at escape was on an overcrowded train to France, but the border was already closed. These events were the beginning of an arduous journey through Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal. They hitchhiked through occupied territory, dodged bombs at Dunkirk, crossed mountains on foot, found refuge in barns and roadside tunnels, and were trapped in Portugal for nine months.
"What people don’t realize is that we couldn’t leave," Piller-Greenspan said. "We would have gone anywhere, not just the U.S." Piller-Greenspan said the couple could have paid $6,000 to travel to Cuba, but "that would be like $50,000 today."
Their American visas came through just in time and their horrific journey finally came to an end. They arrived in the United States in June of 1941.
After the war, Piller-Greenspan reconnected with her older sister and nephew, who spent the Holocaust in hiding. She learned that most of her family perished in Auschwitz.
"I had a 13-month honeymoon I wouldn’t wish on anyone," Piller-Greenspan said.
March 30 – April 4
Piller-Greenspan grew up in Antwerp, Belgium, where she attended the Academy of Fine Arts. Her studies were interrupted by World War II, and she and her husband fled from the Nazis. After a long ordeal that is documented in her pictorial diary, they arrived in New York and settled there. Most of the members of their family were deported and perished.
While raising two children and helping with the family business, Piller-Greenspan continued her studies in New York. She attended the Art Students’ League and studied with Isaac Soyer at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from Queens College on her 60th birthday. Over the years, she has lectured on the history of art, printmaking and sculpture, and she has given courses in painting and ceramics.
Throughout her career, Piller-Greenspan has had numerous solo exhibits in the United States and abroad. Here is a sampling:
- Museum of the Ghetto Fighters (Asherat, Israel) – part of their permanent exhibit
- American Gathering for Holocaust Survivors (Washington, D.C.)
- Paul Klapper Art Center, Queens College (Flushing, N.Y.)
- Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton (Dayton, Ohio)
She also has participated in juried and invitational group shows and has received numerous awards. Her exhibits include:
- Cork Gallery at Lincoln Center (New York, N.Y.)
- Jacob Fanning Gallery (Wellington, M.A.)
- UNESCO Slide Exhibit (Germany)
- Queensborough Art Society (Queens, N.Y.)
Her work has appeared in many art publications and reviews, including a close-up in Newsday and a special mention in the Gallery Guide of Artspeak, where she is called a master of minimal/color field art.
In 1997, Piller-Greenspan was interviewed and videotaped by members of Steven Spielberg’s Visual History Foundation: Survivors of the Shoah. Her interview is part of the library of testimonials stored by that organization.
She continues to exhibit her work and tell the story behind the pictures.