Art exhibit to celebrate life, works of Moshe Lifshen

An exhibit of the works of the late Moshe Lifshen is under way at the Cummings Art Gallery on the Mercyhurst campus.

The exhibit, "Moshe Lifshen: A Life Remembered, A Tribute Exhibit of Paintings, Drawings and Poetry," will run until Friday, May 19.

The exhibit is jointly sponsored by Stairways Behavioral Health and the Cummings Gallery at Mercyhurst. Lee Steadman, the art director at Stairways, is the exhibit's curator.

Moshe Lifshen, the son of Rabbi Leonard and Faith Lifshen of Erie, died Dec. 18, 2004. He was 34. He suffered from schizophrenia.

"Moshe was a skilled and talented artist," Steadman said. "He also worked with Stairways in the arts center here. We want to celebrate that and the relationship between healing and art. This will help people to see the connection and help people to see that if they use their hands to manipulate some kind of art medium, they will be able to feel better about themselves and about their day."

The exhibit will include 35 works from Moshe Lifshen: drawings, paintings, photographs, pottery, mixed media, big and small pieces.

"He was a big experimenter of different media. It will be an interesting show," Steadman said. "He left us early, and he left a body of work that was powerful."

Rabbi Leonard Lifshen called attention to his son's experimentation with art media.

"He was not afraid to experiment and was not afraid to reach for new and creative ways to bring to the surface so many deep and personal feelings."

The tragedy is that his son suffered from schizophrenia, Rabbi Lifhsen said.

"Moshe suffered with mental illness for 12 years. It came to the surface after finishing two years at Emerson College in Boston and he became more psychotic when he decided not to take his prescribed medicines. When he committed suicide in December 2004, he had been off his medicine for at least four months and had decided not to keep any of his medical appointments," Rabbi Lifshen said.

A major part of Moshe's life, said his mother Faith Lifshen was his art.

"Had he not been struck with a terrible mental illness, I shiver to think of all he could have accomplished in any venue of the arts," she said. "Moshe was the kind of person who so deserves the attention from the outside world. He depicted only kindness, humility and grace."

Gary Cardot, a member of the Mercyhurst art faculty, has been working with the Lifshen family on the exhibit.

"Moshe Lifshen's art spans many years of experimenting with different media, subject matter and ideas that are unusual considering that he was basically self-taught," Cardot said. "He studied painting and photography in workshops and a few undergraduate classes but his work comes out of solitary workmanship and much self-reflection.

"The poetry he wrote, his beautiful photographs and the paintings derived from art history all point to a sensitive individual who looked at reality from a spiritual basis. I had the good fortune of having Moshe as a student in my photography classes and this exhibit will be a fine example to art students and art lovers who know about art when it is ended at a too early stage."

Faith Lifshen said the exhibit also will serve to bring the many friends and relatives of her son together. "We're expecting people from all over the country, and Canada, to come in especially for this," she said.

This will be the last exhibit of the 2005-06 academic year at the Cummings Art Gallery. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. The gallery is located at the Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center at Mercyhurst College. Admission is free and open to the public.
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