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August 16, 2012 - Image 62

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-08-16

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arts & entertainment


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U-M exhibits paintings
by Fay Kleinman, who died
earlier this year at age 99.



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Suzanne Chessler

Contributing Writer


ay Kleinman built an artistic
career outside of Michigan, but she
extended her talents within the

Kleinman, after moving to Ypsilanti in
1987 to be close to family, was invited to
exhibit her work at the Jewish Community
Center of Greater Ann Arbor, and other
local presenters soon asked to show the
paintings and collages that reflected the art-
ist's experiences.
Kleinman, who worked mostly with
oils on canvas, acknowledged family and
friends through portraits, captured city and
country activities through scenic expanses,
displayed the fun of pets through whimsical
imaginings and expressed concepts through
more abstract projects.
Davi Napoleon, Kleinman's only child,
believes that people can know her mother
through the artwork completed almost
through this year, when the painter nearly
reached her 100th birthday.
That opportunity will be available
Aug. 17-Sept. 14, when a "Fay Kleinman
Retrospective" fills the Slusser Gallery at
the University of Michigan School of Art &
Design. Mark Nielsen, director of exhibi-
tions at the school and family friend, is
"I'm attached to everything my mother
has done, but the 7ayde Series' is most
important to me," Napoleon says, recalling
the history of the series.
"When I was a little girl, I would tell my
grandfather stories about my experiences
in the country, or make things up, and he
would tell me stories, too. Out of the stories
that we created, he drew sketches. They
were pencil drawings and not meant to be
"My mother discovered these drawings
and thought they were charming. They
came together in her mind, and she imag-
ined them in color. She drew [versions] of
the drawings on canvas to make them fit
her aesthetic and added color:
A birthday gift from a friend — a box
of paints — had set Kleinman's career in


August 16 ® 2012

The World
Around Me. In

In I'm a Little Wolverine, Kleinman

her "Sunday

captured her grandson Randy Napoleon,

Morning" series,

who today is an internationally

Faye Kleinman

recognized jazz guitarist.

lamented the

demise of print


of people reading
newspapers. She
called it Sunday
Morning because
Sunday morn-
ing was a time for
bagels, lox and the

At The Play Park. Paintings in

Kleinman's "Zayde" series blend the

naive and primitive with sophistication

and have been compared to the work of

Paul Klee.

motion. She experimented with the colors,
loved what she saw and pursued formal
studies at the American Artists School,
City College of New York and the National
Academy of Design. Exhibitions placed
her work in New York, Massachusetts and
European galleries.
"You can see Jewish faces in many of
her portraits," explains Napoleon, who
describes her mother as being culturally
Jewish, cooking traditional foods and spic-
ing her language with Yiddishisms. "She did
a portrait of the woman who gave her the
paints, and she kept some paintings of me.
"My mother did a series of paintings

New York Times.
Until the last two
years of her life, she
was reading that
paper every day and
doing the crossword puzzles."
Kleinman survived two husbands, vio-
linist Jack Skurnick and pianist Emanuel
"When I was in college, my mother and
stepfather left New York City and moved to
the Berkshire Mountains near Tanglewood,"
Napoleon recalls.
"They co-founded the Becket Arts
Center, where my mother could exhibit and
my stepfather could perform. That was in
the late 1960s, and it still continues."
Kleinman was a "pure" artist, says
"Fay was responding, not trying to
change the world:' he explains. "Her works
have an incredible sense of composition
and show an ability to use the plasticity of
paint in landscapes and abstractions.
"We're going to show as many pieces as
we can fit. The gallery is pretty big, and we

may add some [panels]. We're going to bor-
row some pieces that have sold.
"I'd like to have the display chronological
with some themes, and I hope it's a show
that inspires students. They will see her
development from more representational
work to impressionist and abstract proj-
One of Kleinman's later paintings, The
Fence, is somewhat abstract with dark
figures behind a fence, trying to get out.
The artist thought of the Holocaust as she
began, but the image came to represent
those forced into horrible situations and
unable to do what they want.
Kleinman shared her collection with her
daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons.
She let them pick paintings from her hold-
ings and rotate them for home display.
"I wish I had a house three times bigger
or five times bigger just so I could turn it all
into a gallery," Napoleon says. "My mother
spoke through her work:'

The "Fay Kleinman Retrospective"
runs Aug.17-Sept.14 in the Slusser
Gallery at the University of Michigan
School of Art & Design, 2000
Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor. Hours
are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
and noon-7 p.m. Saturdays. Free
admission. A public reception will be
held 6-9 p.m. Friday, Aug.17.

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