Arts and Culture | Local

NY Jewish milieu influenced British transplant

Local artist Andrew Burgess will hold his first open studio event at 5634 E. Linden Street on Sunday, Dec. 14 from 2 to 7:30 p.m.

Chicago, "The Blues" collage by Andy Burgess
Chicago, “The Blues” collage by Andy Burgess

“I grew up in North London in Golders Green, a strong Jewish area. My family celebrated all the Jewish festivals and my mum made a Shabbat dinner every Friday night,” says Burgess, who adds that his first important painting — the one that got him accepted into art school — was of Shabbat candles.

Burgess, who wed Tucsonan Gabrielle Rubin in 2009, told the AJP that becoming an artist was a major life shift after attending a high school focused on academics, then studying politics at Leeds University.

His program at Leeds included an internship in Washington, D.C., where he remembers a Jewish female student asking incredulously, “You have Jews in England?” His reply: “Yes, about a thousand years before you had them here!”

In Leeds, which like London and Manchester has a large Jewish population, he started taking life-drawing classes at the Jacob Kramer School, named for a Jewish artist who emigrated from Russia at the end of the 19th century.

An art school classmate from the United States told Burgess about Camp Kinderland, a secular, Yiddishist, progressive Jewish summer camp in the Berkshires. Burgess ended up working there for four summers, then returning to the States yearly.

“My Jewish identity found a home in New York and an affinity with the American 20th century Jewish experience,” he says, naming such iconic figures as the Marx brothers, Woody Allen, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Back in London, he worked in a Jewish bookshop and taught art classes, discovering “just how important Jewish artists such as El Lissitzky, Marc Chagall and Max Weber had been to the avant-garde both in Russia and America.”

Since leaving the bookshop more than 16 years ago, Burgess has been a full-time artist. His work, represented by the Cynthia Corbett Gallery in London and the Etherton Gallery in Tucson, includes painting, collage and photography. Some of his collage work is currently being shown at the Cheryl Hazan Gallery in New York, “alongside that of Basquiat, Keith Haring and Banksy,” he says.

His open studio event will include wine and hors d’oeuvres. RSVP at andyburg[email protected] or 405-4212.