(1899 - 1998)
Near the World Trade Center in New York City is an area
that is named Louise Nevelson Plaza in honor of a great
American Jewish sculptor.
Louise Nevelson was born on September 23, 1899
in Kiev, Russia, to Mina Sadie and Isaac Berliawsky. Her
father was a contractor and a lumber merchant. In 1902, he
immigrated to the United States leaving his family in Russia. Louise felt
deserted by her father's departure and was so traumatized that she
stopped talking for six months. In 1904, they sold their home and with
the money that her father sent, they left for the United States.
They settled in Rockland, Maine, where there were only thirty
Jewish families. Her father became a successful builder, lumberyard owner
and realtor. They had a beautiful home and quickly adjusted to their
new life in America.
Louise had strong ties to the family, especially her father. He
advocated equal rights for women. Her mother was a beautiful woman
who was a freethinker. Louise knew at an early age that she wanted to
be an artist. Being a Jew and wanting to be an artist, stigmatized her as
she grew up. After she graduated from high school, in 1918, she met
and married Charles Nevelson of New York.
For the first few years of her marriage, she studied drawing, painting,
dramatics and dance. In 1922, she gave birth to her only child,
Myron, who later became a famous sculptor. The expectations of her
husband that she would fit into the mold of upper-middle class matrons
playing mahjong and drinking tea was resented by Louise. In 1931,
they separated and she never asked for alimony or support from her
She took her son to her parents in Maine and she went to Munich,
Germany, to continue her art studies. She was in Munich six months
when the Nazis closed her art studies school.
She returned to the United States in 1937 and taught at the
Educational Alliance Art School on the Lower East Side of New York City as
part of a WPA-funded program.
Her first public showing of her sculpture was in 1933. Two years
later, some of her work was part of an exhibit in the Brooklyn
Museum. She managed to survive by selling some pieces of her works.
Her reputation as a sculptor grew and, as she exhibited, she sold more
of her works.
In 1967, she had a woman's show at the Whitney Museum which
became the turning point of her life. She continued to create and
exhibit her works during the seventies and the eighties.
In 1964, Nevelson created "Homage to 6,000.000," a memorial to
the Jews killed in the Holocaust. She was about to donate to the Centre
Beaubourg in Paris, a work worth about S125,000, when the French
government released a Palestinian terrorist. She compared this action
to the "Hitler era." In protest, she withdrew her donation of her work to the museum.
Louise Nevelson is a woman with an independent mind who threw
off the shackles of restrictions and confinement of her life. Her works
are a tribute and a testimonial to an outstanding sculptor, who wasn't
intimidated by new ideas and creativity in art.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism
included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996,
written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated
by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime
Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.