I have been aware of Miriam Brumer’s drawings for over 40 years. Their exquisite fragility penned with wavering, oscillating lines, analogous to one’s distinctive handwriting, reveal the interior person, unmasked, and open for scrutiny. The directness of the touch, the freshness of the mark-making with its various pressures and densities, the sensitivity to the thickness and thinness of the pen’s contact with paper involving overlaying, scratching and the blaze of a caress — these constitute rare moments of unselfconsciousness, where the artist is lost in the process itself, resulting in the psyche exposed to light and bared for all to witness in a shared humanity.
A child of German Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany, Brumer was brought up in the Inwood section of Manhattan, a place where many immigrants who were lucky enough to escape Nazi Germany formed a close-knit community linked through the connective tissue of grief and the resolution to build a new life for themselves. As an extremely sensitive and curious young girl, Brumer could not avoid overhearing the tragic stories about relatives who disappeared and died during the war, filling her with anxiety, which she manifested through outbursts of both positive and negative activity. Her parents consulted a pediatrician who suggested that she should be enrolled in acrobatic, figure skating, and dance classes to dissipate the excess energy.
That was the beginning of Brumer’s love of movement. Of that love, she says:
“…I started ballet lessons when I was a kid and even today I think of my drawings in terms of a balletic line…which led to my fascination with underwater cellular and plant life…not from a scientific point of view, but rather the constant motion engaged me in more of a physically inviting way…I feel there is an underlying property that is important in my making art …an attraction to objects that appear to be immanently moving, breathing or changing.”
At the same time, Brumer is aware of the erratic, cataclysmic aspect of nature evident in the fluctuating worlds of an imagination created with pen and ink. In her drawings we enter into a universe that is both vulnerable and expansive; her emotional barometer determining the terrain.
The collaged drawing UNTITLED, reminds me of Hieronymus Bosch’s THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS as seen under a microscope, stripped of figurative representation, reduced to the essence of evanescent lines and forms intermeshing with one another, teeming with the beauty and horror of jostling hybrid formations floating in layers of infinite depth. Tentacles reach out for contact, groping and embracing, while gossamer contours wait in silence floating in a sea of plasmic animation.
Brumer usually begins a new piece through the process of automatism/doodling, allowing the pen to freely associate with her subconscious, allowing for accidents, until the ensuing patterns coalesce and become more specific, and the imagery resonates with personal meaning. Sometimes the work is bursting with light and humor, at other times it is filled with dread and uneasiness.
LETTING IN THE LIGHT begins with Brumer inscribing anatomical coils on the paper, soon realizing that the drawing was developing into a landscape with densities of light emerging from striations of the earth’s soil; each layer teeming with living matter. Brumer unveils a process of incessant transformation where nothing is still — even death involves corporeal metamorphosis.
The need to feel protected and sheltered from external encroachment is a recurrent theme in Brumer’s drawings. One of the most poignant, THE VIEW FROM HERE, depicts beautifully rendered solid forms of various sizes, holding each other up, creating a wall of preservation; each organism is vital to the stability of the structure and to one another. If one should disappear the microcosm would collapse.
SANCTUARY and REFUGE delineates nestling ovarian shapes deep inside a womb of patterned, primordial guardians. In REFUGE some of the protectors dance and strut to music while remaining confined in their own constricted location. In SANCTUARY’S dreamlike secure space, umbilical lifelines, are seductively designed to reach out and invite entrance. The door is open, as is the possibility of escape into the overwhelming attraction and promise of the unknown.