Challenges

In 1968, Ginzburg felt that he had reached all the plateaus presented to him in Israel. He needed a different spiritual space, he wanted and dreamed of new challenges and when an invitation came for him to exhibit in the United States, he gladly accepted. "America for me was a state of mind, a legend, an ideal. For the first time in my life I came face to face with the giants of the art world. I admired Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko and many others. In America I felt overwhelmed by the creative power I saw. It was beyond my comprehension. It was a new world for me, a new place to explore.”

When Yankel Ginzburg arrived in the United States he knew only one universal word of English; "OK.” He soon realized that his art was opening doors for him, but it was not enough. He needed to be fluent in English, he wanted to be heard. With this goal in mind, he asked an acquaintance, the famed playwright Arthur Miller, "What is the best way to learn English?” He replied, "Watch TV and listen to the radio.”

Ginzburg did just that, but he took it to the extreme. Barely was there a moment when he was without television or radio. He ate with it, he worked with it, he slept with it. His favorites were I Love Lucy, Hogan’s Heroes and The Flintstones.

Ginzburg was an exemplary student and was conversing in no time. In fact, when he was invited to be a guest on the Skitch Henderson Television Talk Show in New York, he appeared without an interpreter. He managed the interview very well and even continued to speak with the other guests. It was an enormous feat for Ginzburg and he was proud of his accomplishment, but after the show, the host Skitch Henderson asked him "You know Yankel, I enjoyed talking with you today, but I am a bit confused. Your biography says you are a Russian-born, Israeli-educated artist. Tell me, where in the world did you acquire such a thick Spanish accent?” Ginzburg never realized he was speaking English like the character Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy, it was English to him.

Nevertheless, he mastered the language and is now fluent in Russian, Polish, Hebrew, Czech and English.

After living a short period in New York City at the famed artistic Chelsea Hotel where he shared a floor with Arthur Miller, he came to settle in Washington, D.C. where he became well connected with the likes of the writer Herman Wouk, Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin, Senators George McGovern, Ted Kennedy and Frank Church and Henry L. Kimelman who was the Under Secretary of the Interior at that time. He had a unique style of mixing art with politics. Ginzburg felt invigorated by the dedicated and concerned people in the nation's capital. Washington, the world’s center for political change, was the place for him.

In the late 60’s the world was a hot bed of war, everywhere on the globe there were conflicts, whether it was the Moslems against the Jews, the Catholics against the Protestants, or the Eastern Bloc countries against the Western Bloc. Remembering his experiences and revelations, Ginzburg was determined to be instrumental in helping create a more peaceful world. His first calling came at the request of fellow Israeli, the preeminent peace activist, Abie Nathan.

In 1972, Abie Nathan came to the United States with his newly acquired cargo ship to secure funding for a radio station dedicated to defusing the volatile atmosphere in the Middle East. He felt if only each side could hear the other, then maybe there could be a mutual understanding and perhaps a reconciliation. Abie Nathan wanted the radio station to be on a ship so that it could sail the international waters of the Mediterranean and be free from any governmental control. His idea was a good one, but it fell on deaf ears. No one he approached wanted to support him. Finally in desperation he embarked on a hunger strike. Around the 20th day of his strike, he sent telegrams to fellow Israelis that had created successful lives for themselves, urging them to assist him in his endeavor. Yankel Ginzburg was one of them.

Ginzburg immediately traveled to New York to see Abie. He was astonished to find the weak and frail activist alone on his ship. No one had come to his aid.

Upon seeing Ginzburg at his cabin door, Abie Nathan inquired, "Why of all people are you here? No one else is.” It was then that Ginzburg told Abie of his days as a young and struggling artist in Tel-Aviv who was helped by a kind and unselfish man, now it was his turn to reciprocate. With Ginzburg’s help, Abie Nathan organized an art auction to benefit the radio station. They were able to make the first payment on "The Voice of Peace.” This floating radio station was truly instrumental in bringing peace to a warring region of the world.

Ginzburg and Nathan were destined to help each other, for theirs was a greater cause. They have been involved in many projects since and even today they are embarking on another project together, The International Jewish Disaster Relief Fund. They both have dreams, the world can be a better place.

As Ginzburg matured, so did his art. The freedom he gained in America flows endlessly in his works. When you look at Yankel Ginzburg’s compositions, you see not only the harmony of colors, but also the character, the talent and wisdom of the man. Yankel Ginzburg has no peers; he admires Marc Chagall, the man who encouraged him in the beginning of his career, but when it comes to painting forms and images, he is an expression of his own. He ascends the ladder of his art with maturity and tolerance; for Yankel Ginzburg the greatest pleasure is reaching the scope and purpose of art, to illuminate beauty.

"Color is my most important aspect, I am predominantly a colorist. I truly believe that color is the first element of creation. When I decide to work on a project, may it be a painting or a sculpture, I first consider color, not size or how the image conquers space. I carefully contemplate how it interacts with the colors around it. In my daily life I am surrounded by color. For me it is a symbol of happiness. The early part of my life was not a happy one. I made a pledge to myself to be surrounded by beauty, banishing the plight of my childhood with elements of brilliance.”