“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” the Jewish scholar Hillel once asked. “And being only for myself, who am I?” Folk artist Malcah Zeldis holds these words dear. Born Mildred Brightman in 1931, in the Bronx, she grew up in a rigid Jewish family and received no formal training in art. It was only as an adult, after a relocation to Israel in the late 1940s, followed by a return to New York in 1958, that she began to gain enough confidence to produce and display art. As Zeldis grew personally, her figures became vibrantly scaled and dramatically colored. Her heritage has continued to feature heavily in her work, which draws on urban life, religious practices, biblical narratives, and historical figures. —E.C.
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