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August 30, 1991 - Image 76

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-08-30

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76

FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 1991

I,

Barcelona and spoke only
Spanish. But from that first
class, "I felt something very
magic," Mrs. Stiebel says. "I
thought, 'This is it,' and my
hands were moving before I
was even thinking."
But her study at the New
School was for six months
only, and as the class drew to
a close, Mrs. Stiebel found
herself hungry for more.
Friends recommended
Cranbrook. So Hanna pack-
ed for Detroit, and her hus-
band and children followed
soon after.
Both Hanna and Ariel
Stiebel became full-time
students, with. Hanna at
Cranbrook and Ariel at
Wayne State University.
Mrs. Stiebel also worked full-
time, teaching Israeli dance
at the United Hebrew
Schools. And, because she
felt guilty about leaving
Israel — a decision with
which she still struggles to-
day — she formed a dance
group whose profits went to
the Jewish state.
"I don't know where all
that energy came from," she
admits today.
Mrs. Stiebel was pleased
with her studies at Cran-
brook, which she describes
as "a very serious school."
She often went to school at 6
a.m. and worked through the
night. She studied not only
sculpting but ceramics,
painting, and the history
and philosophy of art. None
of this would have been of
any help, though, without
her initial education in math
and physics, Mrs. Stiebel
says.
"You cannot be a good
sculptor without a knowl-
edge of physics," she says,
pointing to her own massive
works. Her art pieces often
include what appear to be
physical impossibilities: tiny
strips holding up large
chunks of metal, or thin,
angular, curved pieces bal-
anced with heavy, bulky
slabs of steel.
"Sometimes," she says of
such works, "I like to tease
Mother Nature by doing
things that are theoretically
impossible."
Though millions did not
start pouring in as soon as
Mrs. Stiebel graduated from
Cranbrook, she did find
buyers for her sculptures
right away. Her first works
— figures gracefully bending
and turning — were often in-
fluenced by her afternoons
in Martha Graham's dance
studio.
Ms. Graham, she recalls,
"often caught me checking
my skeleton. I wanted to
know if I had to make a cer-
tain movement, how do I do

Hanna Stiebel: "I think I have lived at least three lives."

it? If a ballerina dances on
one toe, I wanted to know
what happens to the rest of
her body."
Richard Rodgers was
among those who purchased
one of the Martha Graham-
inspired sculptures, which
he found at Cranbrook. He
was so delighted with the

Martha Graham
often caught
Hanna "checking
my skeleton. I
wanted to know if I
had to make a
certain movement,
how do I do it? If a
ballerina dances on
one toe, I wanted to
know what
happens to the rest
of her body."

work he invited Hanna
Stiebel to visit him in New
York. She would later take
him up on the offer, coming
for lunch to his home on
Park Avenue and 66th
Street. She vividly re-
members the doorman at the
building entrance, another
at the elevator, and the
young maid who answered
the door to the Rodgers'
home.
After lunch, which includ-
ed "asparagus and rice with
a delicious sauce," the

Rodgers showed Hanna
around their home. They
had placed her sculpture
between Mr. Rodgers' two
large pianos. He told her, "I
wanted it to be here when I
play my music."
In addition to her studies
at Cranbrook, Mrs. Stiebel
won a scholarship for a
year's study in Italy. She
spent 10 months in Florence
working 16 hours a day
casting bronze sculptures.
Her next stop, she was de-
termined, would be Israel.
Returning to Tel Aviv
after so many years in the
United States was difficult,
Mrs. Stiebel says. "The war
was over, the country had
changed so much." But she
still did not find a receptive
audience for her sculpture.
"People thought I was
wasting my time," she says.
And Mrs. Stiebel herself
found it difficult to make
peace with the idea of
creating sculpture in a coun-
try she always remembered
as struggling. "I still hang
on to that (1940s) era," she
says. "Maybe it's my fault I
can't adjust."
The Stiebels returned to
Detroit, and Hanna immedi-
ately had requests for shows
of her work. She opened a
studio at an old foundry on
East Warren where she
worked with eight other
sculptors. She took a job as
head of the art department
at the Roeper School.

K

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