Diane Tobin, special assistant to the president at the Kentucky Center, points to a large painting on the center’s wall called “Midnight Birds” by artist Vera Klement.
“[Klement] described it to me as when a bell rings and the surrounding birds are frightened and take flight,” Tobin says. “This is her rendition of that.”
You can see the bell and the birds, but in the center of the painting there is also a large blue rectangle — a shape present in most of Klement’s work.
Born in 1929 in the independent German city-state of Danzig, Klement moved with her family to New York to escape the encroaching Nazi regime.
“One of the most horrific times of her childhood was when the Nazis came to her home and they broke down the door, and this is something that you will see in her paintings,” Tobin says. “Almost all of her paintings deal with rectangles — the shapes of doors and windows.”
Klement has become a prolific artistic voice. Her work can be found in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Klement, now almost 90, recently made the decision to donate many of her paintings to public buildings across the United States.
The Kentucky Center is the recipient of three, which according to Tobin will be used as a teaching tool as part of the organization’s “Anne Frank Bearing Witness Project.”
an educational program that provides arts-integrated learning experiences about the Holocaust; teachers at partnering schools have started tours and are partnering with the center’s education department on forming curriculum.
Self-guided tours of the Kentucky Center’s collection are free and open to the public.