Marla Friedman's portraiture in painting and three dimensional sculpture cast in bronze is represented by Hollis Taggart in New York City.
Ms. Friedman’s oeuvre of public and private installations includes the lyrical narrative monument sculpture of primatologist Jane Goodall and the famous Gombe chimpanzee David Greybeard. In collaboration with and inscribed by Dr. Goodall, The Red Palm Nut is now on permanent display at the Field Museum of Chicago. Other commissioned works include the powerful rendering of Dr. Maya Angelou, sanctioned by The Caged Bird Foundation and her regal portrait sculpture of Abraham Lincoln for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library Foundation. Ms. Friedman was chosen by the Apollo 13 astronaut Captain James Lovell to sculpt his likeness. The striking sculpture, in collaboration with and inscribed by Captain Lovell, is permanently exhibited at his namesake hospital. United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, with sittings at the Supreme Court, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President of Poland and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa were among the Lincoln Leadership Prize recipient commissioned portraits for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum Foundation. Rosa Parks, Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington have also been subjects of the artist’s impressive body of work.
Embracing the subtlety of expression in her art, Friedman has a masterful ability to authentically reproduce the sitter’s physical form while simultaneously capturing the essence of a persona. Influenced by the French Realist tradition, Friedman developed a solid foundation in two dimensional portraiture at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design in New York City, independent study in Italy and France and L'Ecole Albert Defois in the Loire Valley, France. Self taught in sculpture she approaches clay with the confidence of history and the freedom of an autodidact. Intuitively delving directly into the medium, Friedman engages the subject to join her in a creative, collaborative experience. Her sensitive, nuanced renderings in clay are wondrous. Cast in bronze they are powerful timeless treasures; a tangible, tactile record of life.
'Friedman’s work illuminates the artist’s reverence for a nuanced and delicate, yet powerful, interpretation of her subject.' - Hollis Taggart.
Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune art critic, states of her one woman retrospective at Hollis Taggart Galleries Chicago, ‘Friedman Show Evinces Portraiture Elegance..... [ Her paintings ] present the artist’s strong technique with admirable, even beguiling, clarity.'
Born in 1954 and raised in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, Marla Friedman's first classical influence was the Museum of Science and Industry, living just across the street from the grand classicizing structure built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. As a professional painter in New York City she was drawn to another classical monument structure and maintained her painting studio in the historic Carnegie Hall Studios; and was represented for her oil and pastel portraiture by the legendary Grand Central Gallery on West 57th Street. In painting she found her muse at Paris’ Musée d’Orsay. The official portrait of French president Jules Grévy, painted by Academician Léon Bonnat in 1880, completely transfixed her. It was the chance discovery of portrait sculptor Jo Davidson's autobiography, which showcased his expressive work in clay, that inspired Friedman to sculpt.
Viewing Friedman’s sensitive and insightful sculptures, it comes as quite a shock that she turned to the medium only recently. Building upon her accomplished career in portrait painting, Friedman tried her hand at sculpture for the first time in 2010. Bringing her skills in figurative painting and drawing into three dimension, the artist captures the likenesses of her subjects, but also conveys an intangible sense of inner spirit that is the product of careful observation and close research. The artist seeks a connection to her subjects that approaches the spiritual, in that she wishes to convey not merely their likeness, but a real sense of their personal presence. She describes this process as “listening,” in both an aural and a spiritual sense. Her sculptures develop out of an openness to the lived experience of the subject; they are formed from equal parts empathy and insight, resulting in compelling works that carry a weight beyond mere representation.
The artist revels in the opportunity to capture the spirit, the nuance and likeness of her subject. Beginning with her first sculpture, that of Apollo 13 astronaut Captain James Lovell, Friedman has had the pleasure of working with many superlative figures of recent history. Her collaborative portraits with Captain Lovell in both oil and bronze, installed at the United States Naval Academy Museum, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, capture the space pioneer’s essential optimism and strong leadership. Likewise, her busts of Civil Rights activists Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou radiate a commanding sense of peace and inner strength. Each expresses their unique essence and is reflective of their individual contributions to the movement. Parks is depicted with eyes closed, as her "soul rested” upon making her momentous decision not to give up her seat on the bus. Dr. Angelou is rendered with hand outstretched, as if to usher her words as they rise into the world. Of her sculptural rendition of 'The First Lady of Civil Rights', Friedman explains, "I wanted to 'listen' and then impart in clay the resolute strength and spiritual quality of Rosa Parks and her brave pivotal moment in history ~ the tranquility of inner peace and her graceful, momentous life so well lived. In Rosa Parks' words, when she made the decision not to give up her seat her "Soul was Rested'. Dr. Jane Goodall and beloved chimpanzee David Greybeard, now immortalized at the moment of their soulful, historic connection. Across her oeuvre, Friedman celebrates the unique qualities of each individual. The exemplary accomplishments of her subjects in sculptures that are themselves unique and exemplary – deeply felt and masterfully accomplished.
- Hollis Taggart, New York City
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