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July 12, 1991 - Image 82

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-12

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West Bloomfield quilt designer Michael Flores
and artist Deanna Sperka create a symbolic quilt.

Assistant Editor


he room is quiet and
plain, the kind of place
high school classes
come for lectures, guest
speakers reserve for long
talks. It appears, at first
glance, nothing out of the
But on the wall of this
room is a quilt. And unlike
its surroundings, it is a
dazzling display of color, of
sky and sea, of lions and
suns and moons, of fish and
hidden eyes, of wings and
Created by artist Deanna
Sperka and quilt designer
Michael Flores, the quilt
hangs at the West Bloom-
field Jewish Community
Center. It stands as a
testimony to the late Sylvia
Messer, a longtime friend of
Mrs. Sperka and a woman
whose life was as vibrant as
the creation made in her
"Sylvia was exuberant, an
exceptional lady who was in-
terested in everything and
everybody," Mrs. Sperka
Denied the chance to study
Judaism as a young girl,
Sylvia Messer was dedicated
in her adult life to all kinds
of learning. She was a mem-
ber of Adat Shalom Syn-
agogue, where she was about
to be bat mitzvah before her
death. Her Torah portion
focused on Ezekiel, which
figures prominently in the
After Mrs. Messer's death,
her husband, Martin, and
several friends came up with
the idea of creating a piece of
art as a memorial. Mrs.
Sperka was chosen to make
the design.
A resident of Oak Park,
Mrs. Sperka holds a master
of fine arts degree from
Eastern Michigan Univer-
sity and has held numerous
exhibitions throughout the

WB 22


FRIDAY, JULY 12, 1991

country. Some of her recent
shows have been at the
Michigan Gallery in Detroit,
the Pontiac Arts Center, the
Buckham Fine Arts Project
in Flint and the Institute of
Culture in Zacateca City,
Mexico. She has taught a
number of courses on art his-
tory and art appreciation.
The quilt was unlike most
of Mrs. Sperka's other art,
and that challenge both
delighted her and brought
back memories of earlier
creations. While living on a
kibbutz in Israel in the late
1950s, Mrs. Sperka made a
series of murals to celebrate
the state's 10th anniversary.
The quilt, she says, "was
like going back, and that felt
Mrs. Sperka began the
quilt project by speaking
with Mrs. Messer's three
daughters. Each re-

membered details of her
mother's life, which Mrs.
Sperka wrote on small note
pads she still retains. Later,
these would be translated
onto the quilt. Among the
most prominent: hands sym-
bolizing strength, pillars
and water showing Mrs.
Messer's love of family, and
tree roots to recall her pas-
sionate interest in Judaism.
"This is a work about
Sylvia," Mrs. Sperka ex-
plains. "Its symbolism is
Jewish and it's intended
that way because of her very
strong feelings toward her
cultural heritage and re-
Mrs. Sperka began by
creating a panel half the size
of what would become the
finished project. Then she
added color, finally drawing
a life-size version of the
quilt. She drew the work in

three units — Ezekiel
dominating the right, the
Holy Ark in the center, and
hands and water filling the
left panel. All are held
together by the heavens and
the deep roots under the
Holy Ark.
As important as the large
figures on the quilt are the
smaller details, less
noticeable at first glance,
Mrs. Sperka says. The Holy
Ark is flanked on one side by
a curved column, represent-
ing woman. On the other
side is a straight column,
symbolizing man. The tiny
fish swimming about show
fertility, and woven within
the clouds are images of
"The interweaving of
hands is a friendly gesture,
but at the same time it
shows hiding," Mrs. Sperka
says. "Similarly, as people

Photo by G len n Triest


Left: Deanna Sperka, Martin Messer and Michael Flores in front of the finished quilt.

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