Sunday, February 5, 2012

Barbara Lazarus Metz, RIP

First, the following post was taken from my friend Jan's BLOG. My memories follow.


Barbara Lazarus Metz 1930-2011

I have just lit a yahrzeit candle for Barbara. I stumbled on the news of her death while googling something on paper arts. One report said December 5, another December 9, just two months ago, in Minneapolis where her daughter lives. The last time we spoke was over a year ago. We had talked about getting together. It never happened.
When I first moved to Chicago in 1972, I became involved in the arts department at Jane Addams Center Hull House on Broadway. I took lithography and photography classes and eventually began to teach a few there myself. That’s where I first met Barbara— a vibrant, opinionated, talented artist.
Our friendship and those of a growing group of friends began to flourish and classes expanded into dinner beforehand, sometimes drinks after. Eventually the group of us would meet on occasional weekends as well, along with any of our significant others.
Barbara was married to a vice-president of Helene Curtis at the time and so lived in two worlds—the wife of a corporate executive whose business it was to sell “beauty”, and the feminist artist who craved slumming, the bohemian life, and making art which challenged that very “beauty”. She was of my mother’s generation and I saw Barbara struggle with those limitations and parameters, emerging as a spirited and independent spirit.
Barbara and I and a third friend (from the Hull House group) had an art show together in Madrid, Spain (arranged by two other friends from that original Hull House group who happened to be living in Madrid at the time). We both tried to learn Spanish so that we could try to fulfill the tradition of artists who had gallery shows, to be present each and every night to discuss their work with any patrons who might visit, as well as with the gypsy singers who stopped by to sing and to ask for handouts. Even the American Ambassador to Spain, Terrence A. Todman, showed up.
She and I spent a month in Egypt together traveling the Nile and getting our hands hennaed, little realizing that it would mark us as loose women. She became very ill in Luxor and I needed to negotiate support for her recovery. We both crawled in underground tunnels deep beneath Imhotep’s step pyramid in Saqqara, believing that we would never see daylight again.
Barbara was one of the people responsible for bringing book arts to Chicago, first through her classes at Jane Addams Center, and then at her Artists Book Works, which she founded after her divorce and where I served on its first boards. I lived a block away from Artists Book Works so it became a very real extension of my artistic community. JB and I even hand-set and printed our wedding invitations there, an edition numbered and signed.
Barbara eventually joined up with Marilyn Sward of Paper Press to start Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, bringing book arts into the legitimate art world of this city. Barbara’s children are starting a scholarship fund in her name at the school.
Barbara was an adventurer. Someone who took risks. She lived a very full life as an artist, a teacher, a consultant, a curator, a world traveler, a tour guide at Lyric Opera, a mother, a friend—a shaker and a mover and someone who did not suffer fools very well. She was open with her heart and mind and resources.
Staring at the yahrzeit flame, I am remembering how she was always filled with plans and possibilities. Always filled with dreams. Now she has become one.


Many fond memories. Informally learning book arts just for the heck of it. Two formal classes in book art for teachers. Working with Barbara (RIP,) Dorothy (RIP,)  Katherine, and Jan at Hull House (where I had a number of books in a show Barbara curated,)  At her studio downtown, and at her studio (in the six flat she bought) on Irving Park Road (which was the pre-cursor of Colombia College's Center for the Book and Paper Arts.) Before our informal get-togethers we would traditionally share dinner at a nearby Greek restaurant, first on Wells Street then on Irving Park. 

Barbara was instrumental in letting me know about and then supporting and encouraging me to apply for a grant from the Chicago Department of Fine Arts. I was awarded a financial grant to build my show and give 20 performances of "Maybe The Clown and His Back Pocket Review" in Chicago's Uptown Neighborhood as well as an "Opening Night" performance during the day at LIncoln Park Zoo, at the Michigan Avenue Bridge, and on the steps of the Art Institute. 

Both Barbara and I shared a love of opera, were both in solved in back stage tours, and always looked forward to visiting during the intermissions of Lyric Opera's dress rehearsals (which we both earned the right to attend though our volunteer work.) 

She was one of the most energetic, talented, hard working person I have ever known. She will be missed. For Jan Barbara has become a dream now, for me ... a memory that I will hold dearly.


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