DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/04/29

In Memoriam

Prophet, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Prophet, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel Meyer (1944-2013)  was an intense and deeply eccentric man and an artist’s model who inspired me with his spiritual presence. As he posed, he prayed or chanted silently, his eyes fixed and his mouth moving ever so slightly. He embodied the human – mortal, frail, vulnerable – reaching out towards divinity. The quality of yearning was so powerful it could not help but manifest in drawings of the man.

Prophet study, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Prophet study, 2002, by Fred Hatt

I didn’t know him well. He was selective about who he would open up to. With me, he always spoke about great literature, refined music, serious cinema. In his last years he was involved in a deep reading of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, comparing English and German translations with the French original. Earlier obsessions included William Faulkner and Gertrude Stein.

Spring Studio, Minerva Durham’s beehive of seven-days-a-week open life drawing sessions in New York, where Yizroel modeled frequently over a period of twelve years, is hosting a memorial exhibition, with thirty-three artists’ depictions of this unique soul. The remainder of this post is Minerva Durham’s remembrance of Yizroel. Details on how to visit the exhibition are included at the end.

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Minerva Durham writes:

“A secret compulsion to touch strangers, sometimes realized silently, sometimes caught out, came perhaps from his having been born in December, 1944, in Heidelberg as the Allies advanced into Germany. He soon became an orphan. He could not have easily thrived, as is the duty of every infant, without parents and with little food.

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Young Hans Meyer, original photographer unknown, photo of old photo by Kyunghee Kim

Young Hans Meyer, original photographer unknown, photo of old photo by Kyunghee Kim

“He was perhaps brought up by a perhaps Christian grandfather who had perhaps killed a relative with an axe years earlier. He was certainly bullied by more robust boys during his youth. A photo of him as a child shows his delicacy and intelligence and sensitivity.
Yisroel quick poses, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick poses, 2010, by Fred Hatt

“As a young man he came to the United States  to work in a publishing house. Years of heavy drinking and smoking ended suddenly when a friend took him to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. He converted to Orthodox Judaism and lived in an Orthodox community in Brooklyn, wearing the curls, hats and costumes of the community that he had adopted. But he was homosexual and he couldn’t really be himself there, and the clothes alone could not make him fit in. He slowly distanced himself from that community, but he still prayed as a Jew until he died.

Nigun, 2003, by Fred Hatt

Nigun, 2003, by Fred Hatt

“When he found nakedness working as a figure model he was at last content. How poignant that this man, born Hans Meyer in war-torn Germany, having been born again as an Orthodox Jew, could only become whole by stripping down and peeling away to the state of his original existence, unclothed and vulnerable. And no wonder that artist Jean Marcellino always felt happy when she saw that the model for the long pose was Yizroel.
Standing torso, 2004, by Fred Hatt

Standing torso, 2004, by Fred Hatt

“His last illness was brief. A year of liver cancer ending in pancreatic cancer and three strokes, each increasing in strength. His friend of many years, George Bixby, saw that Yizroel was taken care of in and out of hospital. Yizroel Meyer was given a proper Jewish burial by the Brooklyn Orthodox community shortly after his death on December 17 last year.
Bicameral, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Bicameral, 2006, by Fred Hatt

“Yizroel’s poses, as drawn by thirty-three artists, can be seen at Spring Studio at 64 Spring Street through May 11, 2014. The fifty drawings now on display show the intensity of his spirituality. Artist Pat Tobin called him, “my Saint Francis.” You may see the drawings on display Monday through Friday from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm or by appointment with Minerva Durham, Director of Spring Studio, 917-375-6086.
Temps Perdu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Temps Perdu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

“Artists included in the exhibition are: Akiva AKA Ken Sandberg, Anonymous, Robert Bassal, Lynn Cooper, Robert Dunn, Minerva Durham, Janet Fish, Robert Forte, Audrey Cohn-Ganz, Lyle Gertz, Dan Gheno, Dinah Glasier, George Grammar, Kevin Hall, Susan Haskins, Fred Hatt, Jerilyn Jurinek, Karen Kaapcke, Robin Kappy, Gary Katz, Kimchee Kim, Kyunghee Kim, Mark LaMantia, Berryl Mallory, Jean Marcellino, Rebecca Odin, Denise Ozker, Eleni Papageorge, Alan Schlussel, Pearl Shifer, Jonathan Soard, Diane Van Court, and Bruce Williams.”

5 Comments »

  1. This post is a nice tribute, as is the Spring Studio memorial exhibition. The Prophet is a very intense portrait — I feel like he’s looking right back at me.

    Comment by Andrew — 2014/04/30 @ 01:17

  2. I happened upon this site quite by chance. I never knew Yisroel. It is quite touching that this model moved so many that they have put together an exhibition reflecting him and his times. The mention of his conversion to Jewishness, is interesting as one notices in the work that he was circumcised. As he was European and this was not common practice there I feel that perhaps he was rediscovering his Jewishness. I am not Jewish so do not share any spiritual bond about this, by I think it is interesting to contemplate that someone born in that place at that time should years later perhaps reconnect with something from their birth. As a model I find it moving to witness the impact that this model had.

    Comment by ACE — 2014/04/30 @ 13:06

  3. Ace, I’m quite sure Yizroel wasn’t born Jewish. I suspect he underwent the rite upon conversion.

    Comment by Fred Hatt — 2014/05/09 @ 11:01

  4. Thanks for this obituary. I drew him several times at Spring Street, and always wondered what his story was, particularly what he was reciting to himself. I remember he always asked someone to get him tea at the break. One time, I volunteered. He handed me a cup,two tea bags and two quarters, and gave me VERY specific instructions to buy him a cup of hot water, but ONLY from the magazine shop on the corner. I didn’t dare just go to the deli across the street or anywhere else, because I imagined he would be able to tell the difference!

    Comment by CBrown — 2014/05/13 @ 09:27

  5. That’s Yizroel! Frugal, exacting, a bit prickly.

    Comment by Fred Hatt — 2014/05/14 @ 07:35

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