Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - 11:18am

We note with sadness the death of longtime RAM friend, George T. Jacobi, who died in Milwaukee on September 15 at the age of 96. George served on RAM’s Board of Directors for two consecutive terms and continued as an at-large member of the museum’s Accessions and Exhibitions Committee for a period of more than 20 years as we developed and opened RAM. 

Born in Manheim, Germany, George came to New York in 1940 and served in the US Army’s Signal Corps during World War II. He received his MS in Electrical Engineering at Ohio State University, becoming an accomplished engineer. He worked for General Electric for 11 years, receiving three patents and developing the first transistorized computer for the banking industry. After serving as Director, Computer and Management Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology he was hired by Johnson Controls in 1977 where he worked until 1993, retiring as Corporate Vice President-Technology.

George was a true Renaissance man. He could speak well on any topic and was known as a great supporter of the arts. In addition to his work at RAM, George was President of the Board of Florentine Opera and a Board member of Present Music and the Next Door Foundation in Milwaukee. George was prized as a Board member because of his knowledge and the way he shared this with others, always sprinkled with a solid dose of good humor and dry wit. We express our gratitude to him and extend our condolences to his wife Angela—herself a former RAM Board member who served beside George on our Accessions Committee—and his family and friends. 

The George T. Jacobi Fund has been established at RAM and contributions are welcome.

Posted on Monday, June 4, 2018 - 2:57pm

We are saddened to announce the death of internationally recognized handbag designer Judith Leiber at her home in East Hampton, New York on April 28 at the age of 97. Mrs. Leiber died just hours after the death of her husband of 72 years, the painter, printmaker, and sculptor, Gerson Leiber who also died at their home. They both died of natural causes and were buried together on April 30. Mrs. Leiber has been affiliated with RAM since 2004 when we hosted the only Midwest venue of the popular 2002 traveling retrospective of her work organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. 

Judith Leiber’s name became synonymous with high style and the red carpet for her crystal-encrusted handmade metal evening bags, created in whimsical shapes, which were frequently seen in the company of celebrities from all fields. Leiber bags were also carried by numerous first ladies to their husbands’ inaugural galas, beginning with Mamie Eisenhower. With a zest for life and a sense of humor, Mrs. Leiber designed bags devoted to every subject and topic imaginable. Her works are represented in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and in RAM’s art to wear collection. People collect Leiber bags as works of art and frequently display them accordingly in their homes.

The Leibers were a tight-knit couple who built complementary careers—he, as an American-born artist and she, a Hungarian native who narrowly evaded the Holocaust. Mrs. Leiber eventually rose to receive most of the fashion industry’s major prizes. She created five collections a year and completed about 100 designs, most of which were included in her show at RAM. She said she was inspired by paintings, historic artifacts, and nature. Mr. Leiber was also a noted landscape designer who turned their property on Long Island into a much-sought-after spot for anyone seriously interested in studying formal gardens.  

In 2008, they opened the Leiber Collection on their Long Island property. The gallery they built has housed exhibitions of both their work and that of other artists. Mr. Leiber’s work can be found in many museum collections including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Whitney Museum. 

While Judith Leiber was famed for her gold-plated hard-case evening bags (minaudières), she excelled at fitting leather, a skill readily displayed in her beautifully detailed daytime bags. All of her work is incredibly well-crafted and was made in her atelier in the US. Mrs. Leiber served as her firm’s “Inspector 12.” No bag left the floor without being personally inspected by her, until the Leibers sold their business in 1993. For many years, Mr. Leiber would deliver his wife’s bags, picking up each order late in the day and carrying the boxes to the appropriate department store on a New York City transit bus. These two, who initially met on the street in Budapest where Mr. Leiber was stationed at the end of World War II, were indeed, kindred spirits. In recent years, both Leibers were honored with retrospective exhibitions in New York and we join in honoring their accomplishments and contributions to the fields of fine art and fashion.

For more about her career, please read:

Article in The New York Times

Article in Vogue

Article in Harper’s Bazaar

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 2:13pm

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of fiber artist Mary Giles on April 11, 2018 at the age of 73, at her home near Stillwater, Minnesota. Giles was born in St. Paul but spent much of her adult life in St. Louis where she was employed as a schoolteacher. It was there that she began working in fibers and became particularly interested in basketry techniques. She knotted dyed linen thread to create vessel forms and sculptural works that responded to the functional history of baskets, while referencing the natural environment and the powerful connections all people have to it. Giles developed techniques for adding metal elements that she created to her sculptures, frequently suggesting the surface embellishments people have historically added to their baskets.

Her career as an artist took off when Giles retired from teaching school in the late 1990s and her work began to be included in national and international exhibitions devoted to the ways fiber artists were using traditional basketry techniques to make unconventional contemporary works. In 2006, she and her husband, architect Jim Harris, moved back to Minnesota. Giles’ work was featured in an important show of contemporary American basket artists at the Barbican Centre in London and she represented the US in the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland. In 2013, she was named a Master of the Medium by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Her work is included in over 15 museums, including RAM, which owns eight of her pieces spanning 1987 through 2001.

Learn more about her career:
From Textile Art Center, Minneapolis

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune



Posted on Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 2:02pm

We note the death of another great talent in the field, the fiber artist, Katherine Westphal, who died on March 13 at the age of 99. Westphal was born in Los Angeles and received her BA and MA degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. A painter in her early career, Westphal was hired to teach Design in 1946 at the University of Washington in Seattle. There she met and married fellow faculty member Ed Rossbach, moving with him when he was offered a position at UC Berkeley in 1950. While there, Westphal began designing textiles and eight years later, she was hired to teach Industrial Design at UC Davis. She remained there until retiring in 1979.

Westphal is known for her elaborately patterned textiles, quilts, and garments which incorporate heat transfer techniques to apply images from original sources—photographs, textile patterns—to another—usually paper—surface. Her works are in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum, and RAM which holds eight examples of her work created from 1977 through 1998. These works are contemporary basket forms, created in non-traditional materials and dried gourds covered in color copier-generated imagery. Westphal was inducted into the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows in 1979 and awarded its prestigious Gold Medal in 2009.

Read more about the artist on Hyperallergic

In The New York Times

Finally, on the American Craft website

Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 3:06pm

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Imogene Powers Johnson on May 3, 2018, at the age of 87. Gene, as she was affectionately known, moved to Racine when she married the late Sam Johnson who was the longtime Chairman of SC Johnson. She became a major benefactor in her adopted community, supporting a wide range of causes, placing particular emphasis on her two passions of education and the environment. Gene is particularly known for founding The Prairie School in Racine but was also instrumental in the establishment of River Bend Nature Center and 21st Century Preparatory School. A warmhearted person with a welcoming smile to all who approached her, Gene also funded the Community Art Projects that placed artist-decorated sculptures throughout the city’s center during summer months. At RAM, we are very grateful to Gene for her long-term support of the museum’s efforts and for the generous contributions we received from her and her family that made the museum downtown possible.|

The Imogene Powers Johnson Memorial Fund has been established at RAM and contributions are welcome.


Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - 4:32pm

We are sorry to share with you news of the death of another major figure in the contemporary ceramics field. The nationally known ceramic sculptor and educator, Paula Winokur died on February 4, 2018 at the age of 82. She made her reputation creating porcelain sculptures that referenced the landscape. Their white surfaces were folded and manipulated in ways that recall how the land and its elements change and shift over periods of time. Some of her wall pieces are subtly colored with glazes and ceramic pencil drawings. Sometimes, she would include a ceramic piece of fruit or a bowl within these works, recalling a table top still life. In her later career, Winokur’s work became larger in scale and even more directly depicted nature’s rock and ice formations. Her large floor piece in RAM’s collection, Glacier IV: Calving, 2010, dramatically captures this natural process executed in porcelain segments. RAM also holds a drawing and a wall sculpture by the artist.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Winokur taught at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania from 1973 until retirement in 2003. She is a Fellow of the College of Fellows of the American Craft Council and Winokur’s work can be found in many museum permanent collections including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

To read more about her career