Marianne Lieberman: Feeding the Stone
Like her hero Elizabeth Catlett, Marianne Lieberman used printmaking to explore struggles and express determination, with personal images that resonated as universal. She came of age in Nazi Austria as the daughter of a Jewish father, pursued a career as an artist at the crest of Second Wave Feminism, and lived in the South as a German-accented emigree after World War Two.
She started drawing as a young child, but her parents discouraged her from pursuing art. Everything changed on March 13, 1938, when Germany annexed Austria. Lieberman wrote in her autobiography Aftershock (2014), “I was persecuted from 1938 until 1945. I still suffer from PTSD.” Her father was born Jewish, subjecting them to the racial segregation and persecution of Nazi law. He emigrated to New York City, leaving Lieberman and her mother to scramble for survival in a quickly constricting Europe. They moved often, but as Germany annexed more countries, mother and daughter were often separated, leaving Lieberman to make her way across occupied borders alone and without papers. Ultimately, mother and daughter waited out the war in Vienna, where Lieberman was allowed to study design and dressmaking. They joined her father in Brooklyn in 1947, two years after the war ended. The secrecy and shaming surrounding her father’s Jewish heritage and her experiences under the Nazis led Lieberman to be outspoken with taboo subjects, even when she used abstract language or symbols.
After being shut off from art education in her youth,—Lieberman enrolled in classes throughout her life, at the Art Students League in New York and, after she and her husband moved to Charlotte in 1952, at The Mint Museum. There, she learned about Cado inks with Alice Steadman, oil painting with June Smith Payne, and speed drawing with Robert Schlageter. Director Herb Cohen gave her a solo exhibition. She studied with Philip Moose at Queens College and Flo and Keith Hatcher at Penland. However, the pivotal moment for her was Spring 1964 when, on a trip to Mexico with her husband, she began classes in lithography at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende.
Balancing her life as a wife, mother, and artist came at a cost for Lieberman, but it also contributed to her uncompromising ethos as a maker and print technician. She knew that every moment spent making art had a personal price and she wanted every print to reflect that worth. Lieberman wrote:
“Until now art has been my medium for searching, for crying, for honoring pain. I recorded love ties and sexual milestones and took my anger and fed it to the stone. I have painted my search, and in the process found my way.”
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