An exhibit showcasing the artwork of several New York artists is now on display in the Family Massage Education Center in Ashland.
The exhibit, entitled “Awesome Art of the Ages,” is from the 50-year collection of Ilana Rubenfeld, and features several well-known New York artists such as Samuel Rothbort, Leopold Churgin, and Bernard Pracko.
“This has been a vision of mine for a very long time,” said JoAnn Lewis, director of the Family Massage Education Center, on the corner of East Main Street and Siskiyou Boulevard. “We have a lot of wall space. Since the Ashland Academy of Art was here before, I figured we should continue the tradition.”
Rubenfeld’s collection is extensive and spans many different subjects and genres of art, including everything from glass mosaics to finger paintings, wire sculptures to watercolors, landscapes to depictions of Jesus.
Rubenfeld negotiated with Lewis to display part of her collection at the Family Massage Education Center. Although the display was originally only going to run through May, they have decided to extend it into June due to the exhibition’s popularity.
“The people who come to her classes love the paintings,” said Rubenfeld. “People have come back several times. It inspires them.”
Lewis’ favorite painting is called “The Antique Shop,” an impressionist-esque oil painting by Samuel Rothbort depicting an unnamed antique shop in New York.
“If I had to pick one, ‘The Antique Shop’ would be my favorite,” she said. “He did a bunch of rooms, and they’re just so intricate and detailed, it just pulls you in.”
Rubenfeld lived in New York for most of her life, only moving to Ashland about ten years ago. She graduated from Julliard in 1961, the first woman to graduate with a degree in conducting. She found it difficult to find work as a conductor on the New York scene, saying very few people took her seriously because she was a woman.
After failing to find a job as a conductor, she developed the Rubenfeld Synergy Method, a branch of body psychotherapy that uses massage techniques and conversation to help alleviate physical and mental stress.
Rubenfeld began collecting artwork when she lived in New York, saying she felt art was an integral part of her life.
“I grew up with many of these [paintings] up on the walls,” she said. “It’s very important to me. Art elevates your spirit, it improves your life.”
“Art is very important to the human spirit,” she said. “Without it life would be pretty dull.”
Lewis encourages students to come and see the exhibition before it goes back into storage.
“I think it’s an opportunity to see museum-quality art that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see,” she said. “It’s the only chance they will get before they go back into a private collection. Students should be inspired by the dedication these artists put into their work.”
“Art is an expression of life, of love, of all the forms of human emotion,” she said. “People see their own feelings, nobody sees a painting the same as another. I think it creates an empathy in the world for one another, to see things from another’s perspective.”