Two Soviet-trained artists explore religious themes in Milwaukee exhibits

Two Soviet-trained artists explore cultural and religious themes in separate exhibits now on display at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Episcopal Church’s All Saints Cathedral.

Born decades apart, Felix Lembersky and Ludmila Pawlowska both studied in the rigid, state-controlled art academies of the former Soviet Union, and both pushed against those constraints in their work.

Lembersky, a Polish-born Jew who came of age in the Stalinist era, hid Jewish symbolism in many of his pieces, at a time when the state strictly prohibited the depiction of religious iconography in art.

Pawlowska, who enjoyed more freedom after immigrating to Sweden, takes a more direct approach, reinterpreting the richly written icons of her Russian Orthodox faith in abstract paintings and sculpture.

“Longing for the divine is visible,” Pawlowska says in an online interview for the exhibit, which has appeared in cathedrals and churches around the world. “It’s about the same message, but the language is

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