Marlene Louchheim: “Commitment – Gathering Sparks” - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Marlene Louchheim: “Commitment – Gathering Sparks”

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Works by Noted Jewish Artist on Display in Los Angeles at HUC-JIR: May 10, 2012 – May 31, 2013

Marlene Louchheim’s sculptures are about more than replicating large-scale burlap sacks using a variety of metals. Her art pieces talk to each other – about love, about distance, about fear and tenderness. Above all, perhaps, they talk about commitment and the need to heal the world. Now this artistic conversation is taking place at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles.

In an exhibition entitled, “Commitment – Gathering Sparks,” lasting through May 31, 2013, the College-Institute is featuring four works by Louchheim. A unique Jewish artist and Los Angeles native, her creations range in size from small, intimate sculptures to giant aluminum and bronze bags.

Each fold, bend and curve in the material whispers to viewers about the power of commitment and the idea that hard work, dedication and love can create lasting monuments. And while each burlap bag is filled with an unknown entity, they seem to be abundant with the quiet resolution that our actions can make a difference. Stuffed to overflowing and inspired by a family of philanthropists, the bags are a testament to tikkun olam – healing the world – and the need to find a container for sparks of the divine.

The HUC-JIR exhibition includes “Study in Black,” a two-piece set of cast bronze that speaks to the issue of how people relate to one another – a common theme in Louchheim’s work. “Omega,” carved from Carrera marble with cast bronze, features smooth surfaces and clean angles.

The College-Institute’s outdoor landscape is ornamented by two large sculptures. “Alone in Nature,” standing at 3½ feet tall, is displayed near the campus’s main entrance. Nearby is “Filled with Commitment,” a towering two-part work that resembles two overfilled bags made from burlap, bronze, and aluminum. One stands 6 feet tall, and the other is 7 feet tall. Louchheim said it was created in memory of her brother, Wally Marks, who was committed to giving back to humanity and fighting for global justice, and she hopes it will inspire viewers.

“My feeling is that in today’s society, people are very slow to make a commitment in a relationship and in their community,” she said. “My family and I have made a commitment to HUC-JIR for three generations. I am delighted to honor the faculty and the students for their commitment to Jewish education and to our growing Jewish community.”

In 1972, Louchheim’s father-in-law, William, founded the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles as a memorial to his father, a founder of CBS. The School provides undergraduate Judaic Studies courses to more than 600 students at the University of Southern California – all taught by HUC-JIR faculty. She and her husband, William (Sandy), have continued to offer support through student scholarships and other means. One of their children, Thomas, was ordained as a rabbi by the College-Institute 25 years ago as well. He was honored Monday, May 14, 2012 at HUC-JIR Graduation with a Doctor of Divinity.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.