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Jewish Journal

Three’s Company

by Orit Arfa

April 9, 1998 | 8:00 pm

Perli Pelzig first knew he had talent at the ageof 5, when he would chalk life-size figures of animals on thesidewalks in his native Germany. These figures attracted attentionfrom passers-by, and, not long after, Pelzig was named "wunderkind"for his dazzling artistic capabilities.

Pelzig, a two-time recipient of the AmericanInstitute of Architects' Art in Architecture Award, continued to drawand paint during his early years. In 1937, his creations were noticedby a Hanover art professor who invited Pelzig to study at his artschool for no cost. But not for long. Active in Zionist youthorganizations in Germany, Pelzig immigrated to Israel in 1938; he was21. For many years thereafter, he traveled back and forth betweenIsrael and the United States, releasing his manifold creative energyby working on paintings, murals and stained-glass windows wherever hewent.

While his formal art training is limited, Pelzighas produced paintings, murals and windows that are housed in museumsand galleries worldwide, from Canada, to Venezuela, to Israel, to NewYork, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

In the 1950s, he began a series of paintings ofthe universe. These acrylic works, which contain images of planets,asteroids and suns, express the artist's interest in theouter-worldly. Pelzig often draws upon Jewish themes for his work,and he has designed the stained-glass windows of Sinai Temple and theHerrick Memorial Chapel at Occidental College.

Pelzig's "Freedom for the Arts" was designated bythe Park Labrea Arts Council to be exhibited, along with the works ofthree other artists, atop Park Labrea towers in the second annualTallest Art Show.

Pelzig, 80, today lives in Hollywood, where hecontinues to paint and sculpt ideas that interest him.

Michael MuchnikChassidic Colors

As one of theforemost Chassidic artists of today, Michael Muchnik tries to instillwithin his artwork not only intricate and beautiful craftsmanship butrich Chassidic ideas as well. His artistic mastery and delicate styleattract the lay viewer to his work, but Muchnik prides himself moreupon the esoteric Jewish ideas that come through his work.

"The unique part of my paintings isn't what theirmade from but the way I've interpreted and portrayed Chassidicideas," said Muchnik, who visited Los Angeles last month to exhibithis work at various Chabad houses around the city.

Working mostly with acrylics, watercolors andlithographs, Muchnik uses his imagination to portray themes and ideasthat are important to him. His work includes renditions of kiddushcups, biblical themes and Jewish holidays, usually imbibed withChassidic or Midrashic commentary. Many of his paintings contain asymbolic object, such as Miriam's tambourine and Joseph's coat(pictured above), that blend with the soft and elaborate landscape inthe background, and thereby grant a sense of universality andgrandeur to the objects.

Muchnik studied at the Rhode Island School ofDesign, where he concentrated in graphic design and became attractedto Judaism. He heeded his urge to learn more about Judaism andChassidim and later studied at the Rabbinical College in Morristown,N.J. Muchnik now successfully integrates both of his passions andareas of study.

Irine Fire Accidental Artist

"Third StreetPromenade""

Irine Fire discovered her artistic capabilities byaccident. Not long before she immigrated to the United States fromKiev nine years ago, Fire played with watercolors to release somenervous tension she experienced before her move. As an editor of anart journal in Kiev, she had many friends who were artists, thoughshe herself had never painted. Fire put the images she produced --flowers, landscapes, trees, faces, animals -- on her wall; when herfriends saw her creations, they pronounced their friend an artist,much to her surprise.

"I'd never thought I'd be an artist," saidFire.

She continued drawing and painting after shesettled in Los Angeles. When her life as a new immigrant presenteddark and bleak moments, painting allowed Fire to add color to herlife. When the well-known Russian sculptor Alex Shagian visitedFire's Hollywood apartment to help her with a story she was writingfor a Russian newspaper, he reacted with the same enthusiasm Fire'sfriends evoked when they saw her work.

"I began to believe in myself and couldn't stop,"said Fire. "Now I paint and paint and paint."

Inside her studio apartment, Fire's colorful andexplosive works, which exhibit similar qualities as the works of herfavorite artists, Van Gogh and Chagall, practically wallpaper herapartment. She paints whatever interests her -- flowers, scenes inLos Angeles, people, self-portraits -- sometimes working fromphotographs, sometimes solely from her imagination.

While Fire is open to working all mediums, sheprefers acrylics. They allow for brighter colors than other mediumsand are conducive to her working conditions -- Fire's studio is inthe corner of her compact kitchen.

While her style is most closely akin to the styleof post-impressionists, Fire considers her work unique and does notprescribe to any method or school.

"Since I'm not educated [in art], I'm not afraidto do anything," says Fire.

One of her paintings serves as the cover of a bookabout self-educated artists, "Passing in the Outsider Lane" (JourneyEditions, 1995), written by Dan Prince, an art collector whoexhibited Fire's work at his gallery in Santa Monica. Her paintingshave been exhibited at the Festival Of Russian Culture at ClaremontCollege and will be exhibited at the Simon Wiesenthal Center amongother works by Russian artists.

"Colors are inside me," says Fire. "I'm verylucky."

 

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