Fine Art

Grace Visits: Artist Miriam Brumer


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.”


GYMNAST, 9”x12”, ink on paper, 2010.


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.


UNTITLED, 22”x30”, mixed media on paper, 2003.


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.

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  • Suzan Globus April 23, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you for introducing Miriam’s work to me. It reminds me of looking a drop of water on a slide under a microscope, only more beautiful and mysterious.

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 23, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Suzan – I love the analogy. Thank you.

  • Miriam Brumer April 22, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Grace, thank you so much for the time, effort and interest you put into the interview with me. Miriam and her drawings are totally understood by you and I appreciate the meticulous care you took to explain the various factors that have gone into the work. You give eloquent voice to elements I’ve sensed but hadn’t before articulated. I admire your ability to put these insights into words.Thanks!

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      And I was privileged to have this opportunity to articulate my thoughts on your drawings which have always resonated with me. Thanks so much.

  • Mimi Smith April 21, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Excellent article about Miriam’s work. And wonderful images of her pieces.

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks Mimi – I know a lot of people were not that familiar with Miriam’s drawings.

  • June Wilson April 21, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Miriam’s drawings are fascinating in their intricacy. In this world you see the child that could never stop moving. The drawings make the page resonate like a tuning fork after the first lines are drawn.
    I have a better understanding of Miriam’s work . Thanks.

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      Beautifully stated June. Thanks.

  • Phyllis Rosser April 21, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Beautiful descriptions of Miriam’s process and drawings. The work and the writing are evanescent. I love the work you’ve chosen to illustrate this critique and on your blog page.

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks Phyllis – I value your words.

  • Ronnie Oppenheim April 21, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Beautifully written piece-erudite, historically referential with a clear understanding of the special hand that holds the brush-I understand the connection that you feel with her-
    Thank you

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks Ronnie for commenting and for our viewpoint.

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you Ronnie – Appreciate that you commented.

  • Betsy Carter April 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    What a lovely piece, Grace. You really painted a provocative portrait (no pun) of her and her relationship to her work.

    • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      Betsy – since you are the “real” writer, I especially appreciate your words. Thanks.

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 1:15 am

    I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to make a studio visit to Miriam Brumer and see her work.

    • Irit Edelman-Novemsky April 21, 2017 at 7:21 am

      Superb! I love your ability to get into her head and articulate her creative process. you answer questions I’ve been asking Miriam for a long time. Only another artist can do that.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • grace graupe -pillard April 21, 2017 at 8:25 am

        Irit- thank you so much for your comment.

      • Faye coleman April 21, 2017 at 11:33 am

        Really a superb rendition of madam Brumer’s exquisitely rendered drawings. Grace, a pleasure to read and gaze. Lovely!

        • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 9:52 pm

          Good to hear from you Faye! Thanks

    • Rebekah Diller April 21, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Great piece. Helped me see the work in a new way.

      • Grace Graupe-Pillard April 21, 2017 at 9:52 pm

        Rebekah – Glad you had time to read this – and see Miriam’s drawings. Thankx