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Malcah Zeldis

(1931 - )

Malcah Zeldis is a Jewish American folk artist.

Born in Bronx, New York on September 22, 1931 as Mildred Brightman, her family soon relocated to Detroit. A strong Zionist, after graduating from high school in 1948, Zeldis moved to Israel to live on a kibbutz. There she began to paint and met and married Hiram Zeldis, a writer and fellow native of Detroit. While living on the kibbutz, Aaron Giladi, an Israeli artist who had seen her artwork upon visiting the kibbutz, encouraged Zeldis to paint.

In 1958, Zeldis relocated to New York with her family. For the next ten years, actively discouraged from painting by her husband and father and lacking the confidence to pursue it on her own, Zeldis abandoned painting to her role as mother and housewife. During the early 1970’s, once her children were older, Zeldis enrolled in Brooklyn College. In 1974, she graduated, obtained a divorce, and began to paint seriously.

Zeldis’ work encompasses a wide rage of subjects including social themes, celebrations, everyday events, religious events and practices, fairy tales, and portraits of her heroes or heroines. She is most well known for her paintings of Jewish domestic life, urban life, and historical icons such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Frank. Zeldis’ work illustrates the artist’s strong social commitment and her optimistic life view.  She recently illustrated three children’s books – “Eve and Her Sisters – Women of the Old Testament,” “Honest Abe,” and “Peaceful Protest – The Life of Nelson Mandela.”

Zeldis’ paintings use a flat style and bold colors. Completely self-taught, Zeldis does not concern herself with academic rules of painting and instead follow her own. Her work is widely collected and exhibited, with collections at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Folk Art Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and the International Folk Art Museum. It was used for an invitation and poster for the traveling exhibit, American Art on the Move, which toured museums during 2001. Most notably, Zeldis was the first living artist to have a solo exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum in New York in 1988. Zeldis’ work has also been published in many books, including the “Moments of Jewish Life.”

Sources: Marcia Weber Art, Edlin Gallery, Wikipedia