Into the Light:
The Healing Art of Kalman Aron
By Susan Beilby Magee
Susan Beilby Magee’s career spans diverse realms of politics, economics and spirituality. A leader of the women’s movement and director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Rights in Seattle in the
1970s, she moved to Washington DC as a White House Fellow. She held policy and management positions in domestic finance and economic development in the Treasury and Commerce Departments and later served as an international business consultant. Twenty-six years ago she turned from business to matters of the heart,
mediation and healing, becoming a certified hypnotherapist and mediation teacher. She is the founder of the Washington Circle of Master Healers and participates in healing programs at the Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage at the Washington National Cathedral. She
has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from Pomona College.
Susan’s life-long friendship with Kalman Aron began when she sat for her pastel portrait at age six. Half a century later, he asked her to write his story. Magee spent hours interviewing Aron, his family and friends and other Latvian Jewish Holocaust survivors. For nine years, she traveled his path across Europe from Riga, through the sites of seven slave labor and concentration camps in Latvia, Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia, finally to Vienna where
he studied art before coming to Los Angeles.
From the ashes of the Holocaust, Kalman Aron emerged to become a leading painter of portraits and landscapes, exploring his own humanity and the mystery of life—all on canvas and paper. More than five decades after his arrival in the United States, Kalman Aron shared his life story for the first time. What unfolds is a visual record of an artist’s
remarkable journey from darkness to light, an odyssey of healing through art.
Born in Riga, Latvia in 1924, Kalman Aron began drawing at age three. At seven, he had his first gallery show of drawings which sold out on opening day. The President of Latvia commissioned the boy to paint his official portrait and sent him to Riga’s Academy of Fine Arts. In 1941, the Nazis invaded, massacring thousands of Latvian Jews, including Aron’s parents. Over the next four years, he was shuttled through seven labor camps and concentration camps. He became an astute observer of human nature, drawing illicit portraits of guards to earn morsels of food and fend off the starvation that claimed so many. After the war, he was admitted to Vienna’s Fine Arts Academy where
he received his Masters in Fine Art, then came to Los Angeles, a refugee, in 1949.
Kalman Aron’s early post-war pictures darkly project Holocaust horrors, then in the slow course of healing and freeing himself from his past, Aron’s work gained poise and an inner perspective that radiates new and ever-changing vitality. He became known for his portraiture, vibrant landscapes and intriguing studies of people in his unique style, “psychological realism.” His work caught attention in Hollywood; he won commissions to paint such notables as Ronald Reagan, Henry Miller and Andre Previn.
Aron spent a lifetime transforming the experience of the Holocaust’s evil into truth, beauty and understanding—on canvas and on paper. Into the Light is a dazzling story of the alchemy of the soul. Author Susan Beilby Magee weaves Aron’s first-person memoir and her third-person critical biography into a compelling narrative that transcends the parameters of art.
Aron’s artworks, acclaimed by critics, are found in public and private collections in Britain, Sweden, Israel and America. He has been exhibited in major museums including Houston’s Frey Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Holocaust Museum and Seattle Art Museum