Sculpture

Shirley Moskowitz was a talented wood carver, though because of the time and physical effort involved in creating large wood sculptures she made only a relatively small number of carved sculptures during her career.  Her earliest work in wood appears to have been a set of bookends with reliefs of a girl and a boy, made in 1945.  She also carved at least one free-standing stone sculpture (Mother and Child, 1942) around this time.

In all, there are about fifteen substantial pieces made over a span of nearly forty years,  most of them made  between 1962 and 1970.  During much of this period Shirley participated in a regular Wednesday evening “carving” night at the studio of Hans Huneke, where she was joined a regular circle of artist friends including Steffi Greenbaum, Oliver Grimley and Bernie Petlock.  The group would work together and regularly critique each other’s work.  These Wednesday nights were especially valued by Shirley, who was busy raising three children at home.  Her earliest works in this period drew on Jewish themes (“Der Chazin,” Rabbi, and Olenu,), in part based on her girlhood, and especially on memories of her Orthodox Jewish grandfather in Brenham, Texas.

Many of her works involved groups of figures, often as family groups.   One cannot help but associate works such as Three (1963), Cluster” (1965) and Five (1970) with the many family photos of the period taken by Jake of Shirley surrounded by her children.

During this period she completed:

Head (honey locust, 1961),
“Der Chazin” (cherry, 1961),
Rabbi (cherry, 1962),
Olenu (walnut, 1963),
Three (honey locust, 1963)
Together (cherry, 1964)
Father and Son (ash, ca. 1964)
Together Again (oak, 1965)
Ruth and Naomi (rosewood, 1966)
Cluster (ash, 1965)
Little Head (walnut, 1966)
Sisters (walnut)

After moving to Philadelphia she continued to carve in wood, completing  Back to Back (cherry, 1968) and one of her largest works, Five (redwood, 1970).  She stopped wood carving during her three-stay in Italy 1970-1973, but she experimented  with bronze in Rome, making a few small test sculptures in wax and casting them in bronze, and then creating a life size portrait head of Jake Gruber (Jacob, 1973), which she also cast.

Much later, in the late in 1980s Shirley took up wood sculpture again when she was living several months of the year in Morruzze, Italy.  A hard winter had killed many of the olive trees on the family property in 1984-85.  After these had been cut down and the wood had seasoned, Shirley decided to try to carve some of the olive wood.  The first result was Hannah and Samuel, a large figure group completed in 1987.  Her last work in wood (olive) was the large Girl with Cat.

— Samuel D. Gruber

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