Mona Goldman: Artist. Teacher. Photographer. Mother. Born April 8, 1923, in Terespolya, Poland; died Sept. 16, 2018, in Vancouver, of Alzheimer’s; aged 95.
Mona Goldman was introduced to the world of art in 1934 at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Saturday morning art classes directed by the Group of Seven’s Arthur Lismer. By the age of 12, she put her painting skills on display by helping her father decorate the Kiever Synagogue in Toronto. Along with her older brother Martin, she painted the signs of the zodiac around the ceiling of the upper gallery (it’s still there today).
Graduating early from high school at 16, Mona, at the insistence of her mother, began secretarial classes which led to a job at a small mining engineering company, which she immediately quit upon being accepted to the prestigious Institute of Design in Chicago. As she wrote later in life, “Chicago was stupendous! I was attending the most modern art school in the world, being taught by leading-edge artists of international stature on a dazzling range of subjects.” She met many creative giants – from painters Fernand Léger and Arshile Gorky to architects Richard Neutra and Walter Gropius. To help finance her way, she took a job typing and editing her school director Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s book Vision in Motion - stupendous, indeed!
Mona graduated in 1944 and moved back to Toronto, but finding work proved difficult for her, particularly as a female in the male-dominated advertising world. So she chose the popular alternative at the time – marriage. Together with her husband Bill, a young doctor from Edmonton, Mona moved west to Vancouver, which seemed a bit like going to the moon after the excitement of Chicago. But she managed well and in 1950 had a one-woman show at the old Vancouver Art Gallery on Georgia Street. Although, her “modern” style was a little too overwhelming for conservative citizens and she received withering comments from the Vancouver Sun. Perhaps because of that, Mona retreated to her studio in Kerrisdale for several years where she continued painting while also raising her three sons, Ron, Howard and Lorne. She stimulated their imagination with lots of basement finger-painting, papier-mâché masks and puppet-making with heads made from asbestos (who knew?).
Before long, she re-entered the art world with a teaching position at UBC but it wasn’t until the 1960s that she began showing more of her work, beginning with a solo show at the Bau-Xi Gallery in Vancouver’s Gastown. Over the years, 19 more solo exhibitions followed as she branched out across Canada and the United States with paintings displayed in New York, Toronto, Saskatoon, Manitoba and many other areas.
In the 1980s, Mona started a second career leading UBC-financed art tours to New York, Paris and London. After his retirement, her husband Bill would accompany Mona, often extending their itineraries to include more exotic locales. The tours finally came to an end in 2002 as Mona approached her 80th birthday.
At the turn of the century, she put down her brushes and turned to digital photography, enthusiastically manipulating her images in Photoshop and resulting in still more gallery exhibitions. Approaching her ninth decade, Mona’s imagination continued to be captivated by the beauty of Western Canada where she spent many hours walking the Stanley Park sea wall and photographing the flora of VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Ron Goldman is Mona’s son.
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