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June 07, 1991 - Image 65

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-07

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From Theadius McCall's
" A Tribute to the
Jewish People."


Growing up in New York, Theadius McCall lived among Jews.
Today an artist, he pays tribute to them
in a new series.

rtist Theadius Mc-
Call likes his sur-
roundings posh.
His Brooklyn stu-
dio includes mas-
sive windows, high ceilings, a
huge drafting table and a fac-
simile machine.
"It has the latest of every-
thing you can think of," he
But the subjects of his
drawings have little in
common with such modern
delights as facsimile and
photocopying machines. Mr.
McCall is a connoisseur of
tradition when it comes to
his art, which includes sket-
ches of black sharecroppers,
elderly farmers and, in his
latest collection, rabbis and
yeshiva students.
"A Tribute to the Jewish
People" reflects Mr. Mc-
Call's longstanding friend-
ship with members of the
Jewish community, which
began when he was a boy
growing up in the
Williamsburg section of New
York. With his works now on
display in Los Angeles,
Washington, D.C., and New


York, Mr. McCall recently
opened an office, We B
Jarnmin Production/Studios,
in Detroit.
His mother, Irene, was a
homemaker; his father,
Chester, was in the Navy;
and Theadius at a young age
evinced artistic, dramatic
and musical talent. His
teachers encouraged his
abilities, and to this day Mr.
McCall remembers their
names: Mrs. Norton, his
kindergarten teacher who
supported his interest in
drawing; Mrs. Valentine, his
third-grade teacher who
nurtured his love of music;
and Mr. Slomovitz, who in-
troduced Theadius McCall to
the theater.
Most of Mr. McCall's fami-
ly was from Alabama. His
parents settled in New York
in the 1940s. Though the
neighborhood comprised all
races and religions, most of
Theadius' friends were Jew-
"They were always going
to do chores and help out at
the temples," he recalls. "So
I went with them. And I

watched the elderly men
preparing the ritual objects.
Those figures I remember
very, very well."
After serving in the
military, Mr. McCall moved
to Texas. There, though he
had never taken any art
classes, he began to pursue a
career as an artist. His first
big break came at the San
Antonio River Art Show. He
was the only black artist
Mr. McCall priced his
works at $49, $79 and the
highest — $129. His inclina-
tion to end all prices with $9
was a holdover from his
Williamsburg days, where
Mr. McCall had seen Jewish
shops advertising specials
for $19.95 and $29.95.
Among those stopping to
admire Mr. McCall's sket-
ches at the San Antonio fes-
tival was the art critic for
the San Antonio Light. Soon,
a full-page story about Mr.


Assistant Editor

McCall appeared in the
"After that," Mr. McCall
says, "I never looked back."
His subjects are always
people, drawn from models,
resource material and
memory. Mr. McCall, 36,
says he based many of the
faces in the "Tribute to the
Jewish People" series on the
men he had seen as a child in
the synagogues.
He says he decided to draw
the Jewish series in part as
"a tribute to several people
in my life who've been very
important to my career" and
because he admires Jewish
history and tradition.
Similarly, a number of his
sketches of black figures
show sharecroppers.
"A lot of African-
Americans may not like
that," he says. "But that's
part of our history, and it's a
proud part of our history.
These were people who suf-
One of the first to see Mr.
McCall's sketches of Jews
was the artist's friend
Herbert Tenzer. Former

chairman of the board at
Yeshiva University, Mr.
Tenzer pronounced the
drawings "outstanding."
A former New York con-
gressman, Mr. Tenzer says
that through his art, Mr.
McCall "articulates that
people have to live in har-
Mr. McCall calls Herbert
Tenzer a role model. "I'm
privileged to be around peo-
ple like him, and I value his
counsel," he says. Among
Mr. McCall's greatest
treasures is a 40-year-old
briefcase, a gift from Mr.
Tenzer, a prominent New
York attorney.
"Can you imagine the
deals that were built in this
briefcase?" he asks.
Though grateful for his ar-
tistic abilities, which he says
he inherited from his
mother, Mr. McCall is well
aware of the need to market
himself and his works.
"You just can't take your
art to a gallery anymore and
hope somebody will buy it,"
he says. "And I'm not going
to say, 'Buy this because I'm



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