The Artist Whose Oct. 7 Series ‘Attracts Fire’

It was just 10 days after the Oct. 7 attack in Israel when the artist Zoya Cherkassky posted a drawing on her Instagram account. The drawing, “7 Oct. 2023,” depicts three generations of a family seemingly in hiding, the mother covering her baby’s mouth to keep it quiet; all stare desperately at the viewer, their horror unmasked. Above them a solitary lightbulb emits jagged illumination — a direct quotation from Picasso’s “Guernica,” the totemic Modernist depiction of war’s horrors.

Shocked and terrified, like other Israelis, by Hamas’s early-morning attack, in which Israeli officials say militants killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped approximately 240, Cherkassky left Israel and flew to Munich with her daughter, Vera, 8, the next day. (Cherkassky’s husband stayed behind.) From Munich they traveled to Berlin, where she once lived and has family.

Then Cherkassky, who tends not to leave her home near Tel Aviv without colored pencils, began to draw.

“The same thing happened when the war in Ukraine started,” the Kyiv-born Jewish artist, 47, said in a recent interview. “When everything has changed and you don’t understand what’s going on, being able to draw — it’s something that gives me a feeling that I’m still who I used to be.”

Zoya Cherkassky, “Oct. 7. 23, 2023,” a work on paper at the Jewish Museum. It shows three generations of a family hiding in a safe room and quotes “Guernica” in its depiction of war’s horrors.Credit…via Zoya Cherkassky and Fort Gansevoort, New York

After that first drawing, 11 more quickly followed before she returned to Israel. By Dec. 15 — in art-museum terms, the life span of a fly — an installation of her series, “7 October 2023,” debuted in a small gallery at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, where it is on view through March 18.

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