Last semester, the Brandeis community celebrated its 75th anniversary, which included the official grand opening of the Alumni Art Gallery in the Wien Faculty Center. “Sponsored by the Brandeis Alumni Association, the Office of the President, and the Division of Creative Arts,” the Gallery’s website states, “the exhibition features a different group of alumni artists every six months.” The current exhibit, which opened in October 2023 and runs until the end of March, is titled “Then and Now,” featuring eight alumni artists of each decade since the university's founding. 

“I was really looking to try and start something on campus that would support alumni artists specifically on the Brandeis campus,” said Brandeis Arts Council member Andrea Soloway ’89 in a March 18 interview with The Justice. Soloway spearheaded the “Then and Now” project. During her time at Brandeis, she frequented the Rose Art Museum and studied abroad in Spain, where she was introduced to Pablo Picasso and gained a great appreciation for the arts. In addition to a Psychology major, Soloway minored in Art History, studying primarily Spanish artists. 

After graduation, she began to collect art, became more involved with the alumni board and eventually joined the Brandeis Arts Council. Being an art enthusiast, Soloway worked with Arts Council member Allision Judd ’04 PB’05, Prof. Joseph Warwell (FA) and other administrative and faculty members to bring the gallery into reality. 

“We wanted to try and find something that would really support alumni artists,” said Soloway, elaborating that Jessica Leibowitz assisted with obtaining a designated space at the Wien Faculty Center “to create an alumni art gallery that was specifically designed to showcase Brandeis alumni artwork.” In collaboration with the other organizers, Soloway presented a proposed project to the alumni board. The board granted funding for the four-year project, including startup cost, allowing for the Alumni Art Gallery to host its pre-launch exhibit in April of 2023, which featured Judd’s art. After what Soloway described as a successful  initial launch, she saw between 70 and 80 alumni artists expressing interest in showcasing their work in the Alumni Art Gallery. That number has increased to over 100 artists according to Soloway. A board has been formed and convenes twice a year to select the artist that gets featured in the gallery. 

“We're going to be exhibiting their work and they can leave their work up there for the six month period that their exhibition is running,” Soloway said. “Their work can be for sale if they'd like and they're able to keep 100% of the proceeds.” Allowing the alumni artists showcase their work at no expense to them is a way to fulfill the goal to support Brandeis alumni artists. 

The current exhibit “Then and Now” features eight alumni artists for each decade since the founding of the university, beginning with Diana Kurz ’57 representing the first decade and Vicente Cayuela ’22 representing the current decade. Other artists include Fran Forman ’67, Rachel Siporin ’75, Deborah Klotz ’84, Rachael Grad ’99, Ryan Pressman ’06 and Orli Swergold ’18. 

The gallery exhibits the alumni’s art from when they were a student alongside their most recent creation. The art takes shape in many forms including paintings, sculptures, photography and prints. 

Walking into the Wien Faculty Center, visitors are greeted by a floor to ceiling wall adorned with “Brandeis Alumni Artists,” accompanied by the names of the eighth featured artist running down the right side. 

Kurz’s first figure painting from real life reference, “Sheila,” was completed from 1956-57, during her senior year. The oil paint on canvas depicts Sheila Kaye ’57, one of Kurz’s closest friends while at Brandeis. More recently, her 2023 painting “Landscape With Dog” was inspired by the landscape outside of the city setting, her imagination and the foliage in 19th century painting. 

Forman, a 2006-22 resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, has art featured at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum which showcases two silver gelatin prints that “challenged the notion that a photograph could only stop and isolate a moment in time.” Forman’s recent work from 2012, “Carousel Escape,” depicts a carousel horse escaping a flooded circus tent, ment to express her stance on animal welfare and rights. “My images blur the boundaries between the real and the unreal. They are visual narratives that evoke a sense of transience, longing, memory and dislocation,” Froman writes in her artist bio. 

Siporin’s art in the Alumni Art Gallery includes “Above and Below” from 1984 and “Portrait of My Mother” from 1974. One of her more recent works titled “Picnic, from Murals in the Marketplace Series,” was created between  2021-2022, inspired by negatives from her father’s trip to Mexico in 1939 that she had discovered. It was created with flashe, a vinyl paint, that allows for the bright orange, green and purples colors in the painting to come through. 

Klotz’s pieces are sculptural, one from 1984 titled “Charlie” and the other from 2019 named “We Wear It Away (Anyway).” “Charlie” was created during her time at Brandeis, in the sculpture studio, where she “sketched, observed, built armatures, modeled clay, direct-fired forms and made plaster casts.” She also gained skill of “Proportion, anatomy, gesture and technical craft laid the foundation” of her craft. “We Wear It Away (Anyway)” a four of a series of nine handmade abaca paper cast over family garments, which works to the narratives of the “storied garments” and “reimagine presence in the now.”

Grad’s two pieces include “After the Plague Party” from 2023, was inspired by art commissioned after historic plagues. Grad’s piece is part of a series that “find[s] a way forward after the COVID-19 pandemic” Additionally, “Confusion,” an acrylic painting from 1994-95, depicts bright colors and unique layers of marks and gestural line that Grad has been methods she has been exploring in her artwork since the 1990s. 

Pressman describes his self portrait from 2006 and “Puerta del Sol” from 2015, as “documentation of [his] life” through diagrammatical art style. 

Swergold’s “The Embrace Series” uses organic and man-made materials to explore the “interplay of bodily existence in a realm of constant human interaction, both intimate and isolated.” 

Cayuela’s “Golpe” created in 2023 and “Barely Legal,” created in 2021 uses archival pigment print on aluminum and natural wood. “Golpe” explores the anthropogenic climate change and challenges faced by Chile’s people, while “Barely Legal,” marked Cayuela's journey into staged photography. In his own words, “It delves into themes such as queer identity, humor, self-discovery and the yearning for belonging.”

The Brandeis “Then and Now” exhibits will remain up until the end of March. In line with the plan of cycling the exhibits every six month, a new exhibit, titled "Joel Janowitz and Jenna Weiss | Connect 40" will be opening on April 11, featuring alumni artists Joel Janowitz ’67 and Jenna Weiss ’07 whose graduations are separated by 40 years. This will be in celebration of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts from April 6 to 14.