The work of Seattle sculptor Charles Krafft, whose ceramics often include swastikas and images of Hitler and other iconography from the Third Reich, has come under new scrutiny since Jen Graves, writing last month in the free Seattle weekly the Stranger, revealed that Krafft had begun to question historical accounts of the Holocaust.
Krafft’s works, long interpreted as ironic by curators and critics, are included in numerous museum collections including the Seattle Art Museum and the Henry Art Gallery. He has also received grants from the Soros Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
This weekend, public radio stations will air Krafft’s first interview since Graves’s article appeared, on Kurt Andersen’s “Studio 360.”
In that conversation, Krafft both defends his right to question accepted history and says that he may be wrong to suspect exaggeration.
“I just don’t buy this thing about 2,000 people a day being gassed at Auschwitz,” he says. “It doesn’t add up to me technologically.”
On the other hand, “I could change my mind,” Krafft admits.
One of the questions raised by Andersen about Krafft’s new skepticism about the Holocaust is whether an artist’s shifting beliefs should change viewers’ evaluation of his work. Krafft thinks not.
“The [Hitler] teapot started out ironical and it still stays ironical,” he says, “because for God’s sakes, if you look at that thing, it’s goofy.”
While defending to Andersen his new suspicions about the Holocaust, the artist expresses sorrow over their consequences.
“I don’t have any regrets for making the art that I did or my intellectual curiosity,” says Krafft, although he does admit that some old friends have been avoiding him.
Perhaps because of the artist’s seeming surprise at being ostracized, Andersen openly tells Krafft he may be mentally ill and suggests that he might seek help.
“If I find a psychiatrist who can help me, Kurt,” Krafft concludes, “I’ll get back to you and let you know when I’m well.”