Saturday, December 11, 2010
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
In The Wall, Peter Sis, the internationally acclaimed author illustrator, traces his development as an artist, as well as, the history of Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia from 1948 up through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The picture book which contains entries from early journals, panels of richly detailed black-and-white drawings and bright multicolored illustrations explores the contrasts between East and West; domination and liberty; and expression and silence. A young Sis who discovers a profound love of drawing later finds himself secretly making paintings at home. Art, books and films are censored. Political indoctrination and public displays of communist loyalty are compulsory. Life in Prague proves oppressive as everyday citizens are followed, monitored, harassed, imprisoned, deported and tortured. And yet, Sis manages to capture great (albeit brief) moments of hope such as the Prague Spring of 1968. The artist describes a time when censorship is eased and everything seems possible. Sis learns about the Beatles, Beach Boys and rock 'n' roll; Allen Ginsberg and beat poetry; American basketball, blue jeans and travel. The Wall is a moving memoir that encourages the deep discussion of art, truth and freedom.