I just learned of the passing of a great Deaf American artist – Morris Broderson.
Broderson passed away on January 4, 2011 at the age of 82. He had attended the California School for the Deaf and was encouraged and celebrated as an artist by his aunt, gallery owner Joan Ankrum. Broderson was later represented by his cousin, David Ankrum. As stated in the Los Angeles Times’ obituary:
His exquisite water colors and oil paintings are in hundreds of private collections, worldwide, as well as in the permanent collections of Gallaudet College and the Joseph Hirshhorn Museums in Washington, D.C., The Whitney and the Guggenheim Museums in New York, The Los Angeles County Museum and NTID, at the Rochester Institute of Technology, to name only a few.
Even though Broderson did not self-identify with the Deaf View / Image Art (De’VIA) movement, many of his works featured fingerspelling and Deaf themes. A short 1989 video clip displays Broderson’s fancy fingerspelling while discussing his works.
Visit this website with links to his gallery and other info including a touching tribute by Borderson’s good friend, Bernard Bragg. I have been blessed to see many of his original works as the NTID Dyer Arts Center owns several pieces and recently acquired many of Broderson figure drawing sketches. Reproductions on the internet do not do justice to his mastery nor do they fully represent the detail and skill of his hands. A few years ago when in Fremont, I visited the California School for the Deaf’s archives and was transfixed by one of Broderson’s portraits of Anne Frank. This particular one featured a tree image growing in the middle of Anne’s chest and I longed for it so badly a temptation came upon me that made me know just how powerful art can be. It was an haunting and soulful work that kept calling me to study it while i looked at all the other gems in the archives. Many notable artists have hailed from CSD (D’Estrella, Tilden, Redmond, and Kowalewski just to name a few) but Broderson is probably the one who has been the most exhibited and celebrated.
Broderson had an exceptional gift and examined a variety of mediums, motifs, and messages over the span of his long career as an artist. I regret that I never had the good fortune to meet him but I am very thankful that i had the opportunity to know him a bit via his art.
Link to transcript of interview:
(examples of two of Broderson’s works gracing the cover of books)