Remembering Ursula Brodauf
Ursula Brodauf was born on January 24, 1926 in Grünhainichen, a small German town near the Czechoslovakian [Czech Republic] border that was known for its fine wood carvers. She was seven years old in 1933 when Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, engineering dire economic consequences for her family.
Brodauf’s father, whom she described to me in an interview eleven years ago as a “practical and quiet intelligent” iconoclast, stubbornly refused to conform to Third Reich conventions, even before the ‘30s when the Nazi culture began to proliferate. “My parents lost everything when I was a little girl,” she remembered. “But I never felt deprived.” Her mother “appreciated the fine arts. She only allowed classical music to be played in the house. I knew opera as a tiny child, but nothing else.”
At fourteen, Brodauf began an apprenticeship as a wood carver. “I liked carving but not the repetitive assignments. It was like a trade school and I wanted to do my own thing.” To her teacher, master wood carver Emil Helbig, she announced that she wanted to be a sculptor. Two years later, Brodauf received a scholarship to study sculpture, a benefit instigated by her teacher. This was unusual because the young pupil’s family was not in the Nazi Party and she did not rise through the Hitler Youth ranks like her peers.
Brodauf assumed her mother’s arts appreciation and her father’s nonconformist attitude. Motivated to become a sculptor, she left home after the war. She had earlier hoped to go to Dresden where her uncle was a professor of sculpture at the Academy of Art, but bombs had torched the city.
“There was nothing in East Germany—Hanover, Dresden, Munich—they were all pretty much devastated by the war. I knew that to advance my studies I had to go to West Berlin.”
Brodauf made three dangerous border crossings “under gunfire,” she said, to move her belongings and supplies. Her first load of possessions was stolen. “I got smarter each time,” she told me.
The Academy of Art in West Berlin was not prepared to receive students when Brodauf arrived in 1948. She had to wait another year, surviving on odd jobs and primitive living, much as her family did back in Grünhainichen. Accustomed to hard work, Brodauf began a demanding curriculum of studio work, drawing assignments, anatomy lessons with doctors, and art history. She also met with visiting instructors, such as Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder.
About these times, author and translator Rosemarie Brittner-Mahyera wrote: “During the Third Reich, all art forms with the exception of realism had been banned as decadent. The West Berlin school was the first of its kind in Germany to foster Expressionism after the war, and that resurging artistic freedom provided the proper setting for [Brodauf’s] creative development. Her teachers included the sculptors Klakow, Seltz, Sinenis and Van Verkerk, some of them members of the famous Bauhaus School. After five years under their tutelage, she obtained her master’s degree in sculpture from the Master School of Arts (Utah Artists Project, J. Willard Marriott Library).”
Continuing, Brittner-Mahyera stated that Brodauf's work “evokes a mood, contemplation, and stirring of the soul. She is a master sculptor who understands the nature of her medium - its strengths, weaknesses and possibilities. She creates but does not control, thereby allowing her sculptures to emerge into their own. The artist's work is quietly bold; bare simplicity. Each sculptured art piece is stripped of unnecessary details, leaving a form that is pure, like a haiku poem. Her figures reflect sensitive awareness to the spirit of life; the abstract forms offer a quiet repose for the intellect.”
In 1950, Brodauf directed the design of the Colorphone Agfa Film Company’s stage sets, developing skills she thought would help her find employment in the United States while she furthered her sculpting career. Five years later, she was on her way to Los Angeles when she stopped to visit a friend in Salt Lake City. She decided to stay, settling in Emigration Canyon instead of Hollywood.
Two statements by a West Berlin teacher guided her work, she said: “Don’t piddle around. Do big things. Work has to be bigger than you”; and “You have to be possessed. I don’t want anyone in this class who isn’t possessed with their work.”
Brodauf was possessed by her work until the end of her life. She died on May 14, 2011. According to her obituary, “she invested her life to family, sculpture, and photography…" She was chosen, in 2002, as "One of the 100 Most Honored Artists of Utah" by the Springville Museum of Art. Some of her public sculptures include: "Breeze" at the Salt Lake Convention Center, "Intensity" at Fire Station No. 11, "Stations of the Cross" at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Sandy, and "K'ai-ho" on the Browning Plaza at the University of Utah Hospital.”
“I feel I was put on this earth to sculpt,” she told me. “I do my work for me. I have to do it for me and those who acquire it, see it, get the benefit.”
In Memoriam: Park City
Bark 'n' Art
The Park City Gallery Association Remembers Connie Katz
Walking your dog is not a very common way to memorialize someone who has died, but that is what the Park City Gallery Association is inviting the public to do in honor of the late Connie Katz.
Katz passed away in January of this year after a short struggle with pancreatic cancer. With her husband David, Katz founded Coda Gallery, with locations in Palm Springs, New York and Park City. In her last years she was the elder member of the Park City Gallery Association, and, as many of her colleagues attest, its driving force.
Jude Grenney, owner of the former Phoenix Gallery and the current JGO Gallery in Park City, says Katz "was the de facto chairperson. Not because she wanted the role, but because she was willing to get things done, and as she said, she was the loudest. As a squeaky wheel, she motivated us to apply for and get supporting grants and she worked with the city to get them on board to help promote our strolls."
"Connie didn’t waste time," says Maren Bargreen, owner of Gallery MAR. "She and David were smart cookies—and Connie was generous to a fault. When I had a problem or a difficult question, Connie always gave me a straight answer and a big hug.
To recognize her contributions to the organization the members of the Park City Gallery Association have dedicated this year's annual Bark ‘n' Art Stroll to her memory. The event takes place Friday, June 24th, 6 to 8 in the evening. "Four legged friends and their devoted owners are invited to stroll Park City art galleries on historic Park City Main Street." Silver Queen Fine Arts has set up a photo booth where, for a $5 donation, pets and people can be photographed alone or together. Proceeds will benefit the Park City Friends of the Animals, a no-kill organization set up to care for homeless pets. Additionally, Dancing Hands Gallery is offering a chance to stay two nights at a 2 bedroom apartment located right on Main Street. The apartment has two balconies overlooking the street and is within a quick walking distance to many fine restaurants, shops, and the Park City Museum. Other special events taking place in Park City that same weekend include Savor the Summit, Park City street long outdoor dining table, and the Park City Silly Market on Sunday morning. Opportunity tickets are $20 each and all proceeds will benefit the Park City Gallery Association.
To read about such an invitation on the obits page might seem out of place, but to those who knew Katz, participating in the Bark 'n' Art makes sense --
not only because of her love for her own dog, Lulu, but because the sight of a pet running around a fine art venue strikes the same whimsical note that was so welcome at her gallery.
If you're looking for another way to remember Connie Katz you are invited to make a donation to the scholarship she established at the Betty Ford Clinic. David Katz died shortly before Connie. Linda Katz, who has long worked at the galleries is currently running both the Palm Desert Gallery and the Park City Gallery (the New York location closed a few years ago).