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Last week for Oglethorpe’s ‘Dachau Before Dachau’ exhibit

"Sunset on the Winter's Marsh," by Henri Gogarten from the Oglethorpe Museum exhibition "Dachau Before Dachau: European Artist Colony, 1860-1914."

I can’t file this one under “fun stuff to do,” when it fits far better among “important things to do.”

We’re in the last week of a combination exhibition at Oglethorpe University’s Museum of Art, one that remembers the serene work that came out of a European artists’ colony, and another that reveals the horror of a World War II concentration camp. They are the same place, Dachau.

A piece by Georgia Humanities Council President Jamil S. Zainaldin that ran in the AJC earlier this month stuck with me well after the morning tea and newspaper:

And, now here in the Oglethorpe University Museum exhibit, I learned that from 1860 to 1914 Dachau was the site of an artist gathering. This was a side of Dachau I had not seen or even imagined: as a setting where artists from Germany and Europe had come to set up their easels to create lasting images of beauty. The gentleness and harmony of many of the paintings are profoundly moving.

A second exhibit, an historical one charting the construction and operation of the SS concentration camp, is placed almost literally in the center of the artists’ exhibit at Oglethorpe. “Dachau Concentration Camp” keeps in front of us the evidence of humankind’s inhumanity in Dachau.

We see so much beauty and we see so much evil all at once defining a single landscape. The juxtaposition of these two Dachaus prompted me to think about heaven and hell, beauty and beast, light and dark.

As I took in the paintings and the concept of an artist colony that existed in Dachau before the rise of the Nazis, my senses and intellect struggled with existential questions: “What happened here?” and “How did this happen here?” “Dachau Before Dachau” and “Dachau Concentration Camp” startles us by forcing this reality upon us.

The rest of the piece, ‘A contrast in images defining Dachau’ is worth reading. Moreso, in these last few days, the exhibition is worth seeing.

Want to go? “Dachau Before Dachau: European Artist Colony 1860-1914″ and “Dachau Concentration Camp: Years of Destruction 1933-1945″ runs noon- 5p.m. through Aug. 30. $5, for for members and children younger than 12. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-364-8555, http://museum.oglethorpe.edu.

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