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Clay artist Marcia Polenberg ,includes
Jewish themes in works on display in Ann Arbor.
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arcia Polenberg periodically uses paint and clay
to create art that reflects her Jewish heritage,
but she never has shown her work in Israel.
Ted Ramsay, her fiancé of a different religious
background, uses similar techniques to create art with secular
themes, and he has been represented in Israeli shows.
The two figurative artists, both on the faculty at the
University of Michigan, bring some recent paper and clay
projects to Ann Arbor's Washington Street Gallery with
Figure It Out, a duo exhibition on view through Dec. 24.
While each artist explores cultural and historical revela-
tions in their own ways, they both mix clay with paper
pulp to stiffen and harden it and then mold their materials
into two and three-dimensional ceramic works that can be
carved, glazed and scratched for innovative effects.
"Both of us are excited by color, so the work is complemen-
tary in that regard," says Polenberg, who is showing oil pas-
tels, almost life-size figures and portraits in clay. "I want my
work to reflect my love of people and my interest in them.
"My pieces for this exhibit explore the mystery of identi-
ty and the spiritual roots that transcend our mortality. The
vocabulary of clay, as well as oil pastels and mixed media,
provides opportunities for me to develop the varied experi-
ences of the figures, both the bright and dark sides and the
successful and hesitant sides."
With Jeremiah, a life-size terracotta bust of the biblical
prophet, Polenberg delves into issues of prediction, which
she says can be comforting during uncertain times. Ezra,
completed to recognize the biblical figure and a friend with
the same name, actually has her father's features.
"There was something subconscious that made me form
elements of my father's face," says Polenberg, whose works
have been exhibited across the country. "Maybe it's because
my father and friend shared the same qualities, or maybe
when you love somebody, as I did my father, that person's
presence comes out in various ways." •
Maidl and Zayde, separate head and neck sculptures that
are smaller than actual size, were completed out of respect
for people confronting the Holocaust. Zayde honors a
grandparent who endured and came to America, while
Maidl pays tribute to the unknown young people who had
to face unspeakable atrocities.
Survivor, a life-size figure of a seated woman, represents
her heritage and more by addressing issues of endurance Jews
and others have faced. Showing a woman who has experi-
enced much pain, the piece becomes a metaphor for sur-