Maint's Sistine Chapel, continued
the buildings formal dedication in February, where Maitins sketches
for his new mural were on exhibit, the benediction before dinner was given
by Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Penn Hillel. I find Sam
and his work inspirational, said Alpert. His paintings based on Genesis
and the Psalms express the highest aspirations of humanity.
Hillel, the Newman
Center, and the Christian Association are part of the Interfaith Council
on campus, sharing a social-action agenda and participating in several
joint projects, such as a Sunday night soup kitchen at Hillel for residents
of West Philadelphia; and a Safety Fair, an annual event that attracts
more than 1,000 children who come to learn about various personal-safety
precautions. Our joint mission is to raise awareness of spirituality
though social action, said Alpert.
Collins, professor emerita of pediatrics at Penn and a chair of the CAs
board, introduced Maitin at the dinner. Collins, who spearheaded the project
for the new mural, said: We love and respect Sam for living his life
as he practiced his art. To use Sams words, he has always thought that
the making of art is a humanizing and sensitizing process, which, unlike
most other activities, including formal religion, never isolates, separates,
or threatens people. Rather, it is an attempt to contribute to society,
to people, to civilization, forging bonds where none existed and creating
a visual history that serves as an anchor for succeeding generations.
out that the integration of Maitins philosophy of life and work is clearly
shown by his prolific efforts on behalf of SANE, an organization that
flourished in the 1970s and 1980s to combat nuclear testing. Maitin created
many silkscreen print-posters honoring, among others, broadcaster Taylor
Grant, actors Ed Asner and Jane Fonda, and Nobel Peace prize-winner Desmond
Tutu. During the 1970s, Maitin also joined a group of artists and poets,
including Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, who protested against the war
in Vietnam. To that effort he contributed eight peace posters. Maitin
believes that poster art can be shared with numerous people because it
are particularly fond of Maitin, said Collins, because his paintings,
murals, and sculptures decorate and brighten so many public places and
spaces: the Fleisher Art Memorial, where he took painting lessons as a
boy; Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and other hospitals; Temple University
Dental School; the Kaiserman Jewish Community Center in Haverford; the
YM-YWHA at Broad and Pine Streets; the Free Library of Philadelphia; the
Settlement Music School; the Philadelphia Art Alliance; Wills Eye Hospital;
and the rear wall of the Academy of Music. He recently designed posters
for the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut
Hill, which held a major retrospective of his art last year.
large-scale work is an 11- x 5-foot polychrome aluminum sculpture for
George Washington University in Washington, D.C., which was commissioned
by Philadelphia oncologist Dr. Luther W. Brady RES56, a longtime Maitin
benefactor. This spring, after a two-week stint as artist-in-residence
at Brevard College in North Carolina, Maitin will resume working on another
mural, commissioned by the Jewish Family and Childrens Service of Philadelphia,
for the new Please Touch Museum, which will be located on the Delaware
He will also
continue working up sketches for the new chapel mural. Maitin envisions
two paintings, each 7- x 8-feet, on the east and west walls of the room.
One will be in warm, sunny colors, suggesting light; the other in greens,
blues, and purples, evoking darkness. The arc-shaped windows gave me
the idea to create similar mural shapes, says Maitin, who would also
like to do a small framed painting for the back wall, as well as a painting
for the ceiling, so that when people come to pray they literally will
be surrounded by light and color.
Unlike his earlier
mural, Maitin wants the new ones to be a bit more vivid. The two semi-circular
shapes will bring to mind the shape of the world, he explains. I am
thinking of Genesis, of Creation, as a theme, and I want to weave in the
impressions I have of the 104th Psalm. It is one of my favorites. I used
to discuss it with Ralph Moore. In a sense, God has finished his, or her,
work and looks down at the earth and talks of the roar of the lion from
the mountaintop; he cavorts with the leviathan of the seaa huge sea monster
I have always thought of as a whale. I dont want them to be too literal.
Ill probably incorporate calligraphy, which is typical of me. Maitin
will get some feedback from the folks at the CA before executing the
final designs. There is no deadline, but he hopes to finish the murals
and install them by this fall.
does not think of himself as a religious man and is suspicious of organized
religion, deploring orthodoxy and fanaticism, says art reviewer and critic
Rita Rosen Poley, who attended the dinner, I believe that he is probably
more religious than he thinks. Poley curated a large show of Maitins
religious works last year at the Temple Judea Museum at Congregation Keneseth
Israel in Elkins Park. The show, which featured a series of biblical watercolors
inspired by the 1976 Bar Mitzvah of his son Izak, was titled The White
Monkey Talks With God: Sam Maitin Paints From the Bible. It included
about 70 or 80 works by the white monkey (which is how Maitins uncle
described him when he was born).
When we were
young, my brothers, my father, and I would have discussions about personalities
in the Bible, Maitin says. Poley thinks that Maitins childhood, filled
with family conversations about historic, political, literary, and cultural
Judaism, left an enduring legacy.
Like Ralph Moore
and Beverly Dale, Maitin believes that music, art, and painting are the
spiritual quests of the human heart and soul. One reason I am doing this,
says Maitin of the murals, is because I have a great affection for these
people. They are truly the great people. To show his support and appreciation,
the artist designed four silkscreen posters, based on his mural designs
for the new chapel, and donated them to the CA.
We were really
overwhelmed by Sams generosity, says Marjeanne Collins. We will use
the posters to promote the Christian Associations expanded program support
for student and community outreach. And, of course, we hope it will attract
many people to Sams Sistine Chapel.
former editor of Inside magazine, profiled Sam Maitin for the Gazette
in 1987. She is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.