First published: Summer 2015
Aged 83, American self-taught artist Malcah Zeldis is still going strong. Born in New York and brought up in Detroit, Michigan, her father, who died in 1980, was a Sunday painter who inspired his daughter to make art. In turn, Malcah influenced her son David Zeldis: he has become known for his spare, elegant drawings of pencil or coloured pencil and crayon on paper.
Malcah Zeldis has produced colourful oil paintings and smaller gouaches that depict American holiday parades and Miss America contests; famous people, especially artists; her political idol, Abraham Lincoln; events from her own life; Jewish-themed scenes; and fantasy subjects. In recent years, Malcah has branched out and begun to make assemblage sculptures, too.
Lovers in the Clouds, David Zeldis, 2012, pencil and coloured pencil on paper,
10 x 7 ins., 25.4 x 17.7 cm
For many years, Malcah stored textiles that once belonged to her mother, a Russian-born ballerina who produced artificial flowers with silk. She went on to keep a trunk full of artificial flower parts and silk ribbons that fascinated her Malcah. After her mother’s death in 1990, Malcah preserved her old doilies, handkerchiefs and other small items, now observing, “Our house was full of handmade things, which were treasured and well cared for.”
Like her mother, Malcah cherished beautiful objects and materials; she was entranced by such items, even if they were damaged, because they evoked memories. Malcah collected objects that she found and decorated her home with them or incorporated them into her paintings.