“Section Five” refers to the fifth section of the former Soviet Union passport, which stated a citizen's ethnicity. In the passport I carried until I emigrated from Russia to the US, the fifth paragraph listed me as “Yevrei,” Jew.
In Cold War Soviet Union it was not safe to be a Jew. Jews were presumed traitors and security risks. Their activities elicited police surveillance and informers. As a result, Jews were in a constant state of anxiety.
The word “Yevrei” was embarrassing. Being a Jew was an embarrassment. It was also a liability.
Consequently, “Section Five” burned like a suddenly revealed deficiency, producing in the holder of the passport feelings of shame and guilt. It branded one for life.
My “Section Five” paintings are diminutive in size recalling passport photos. The faces, modeled after my own, almost becoming in the process of painting the faces of all Jews whose self-identities have been formed by fear of exposure, shame and anger.
I discarded my brushes in the painting of “Section Five”. Instead I painted with my hands, fingers feeling intuitively through the thickened oil. Emotion twenty years pent up within me finding its way into a charged hand gesture, a slip of a thumb across a viscous surface of paint.