There are labors of love and then there are labors of love so deep and committed that one must bow one’s head in admiration and awe of the laborer’s perserverence and devotion to her chosen quest. My sister Lisa Thaler is one such laborer and her just-published book — Look Up: The life and art of Sacha Kolin — is one such endeavor.
Ten years ago, attending the Annual Modernism Show (mainly furniture and tchotchkes) Lisa was drawn to a geometric abstract canvas from the 1950’s, a painting by an artist whose name she didn’t recognize but whose art spoke to her soul. So struck was she by the painting that she bought it, resolving to see what she could learn about this Sacha Kolin. All Lisa had to go on was the information on the back: artist’s name, address and the art venues where her work had been shown. What was intended to be a casual “look up” evolved into a decade-long discovery and recovery of the life of a painter and sculptor whose professional circle grew to embrace Josef Albers, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein among others.
Lisa, a genealogist by profession, interviewed Kolin’s relatives and friends in Europe and the U.S., buying their art as it became available, poring through documents both public and private to bring Sacha to life. It was a journey fraught with setbacks, frustrations, uncanny revelations and serendipitous coincidences that kept Lisa going when a lesser writer would have turned to easier endeavors. Brain surgery perhaps.
But my little sister is not a lesser writer any more than Sacha is a lesser artist for having faded from the art world’s memory. Lisa brought this forgotten powerhouse back from history’s abyss creating interest and excitement beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. I’d like to believe Sacha’s spirit hovered nearby the evening of Lisa’s debut lecture to a sell-out standing room only crowd. Before the night was out an actress approached Lisa, card in hand, eager to play Sacha should a movie ever be made of the artist’s life. The morning after, my husband was asked to retype a string of letters to gain access to a website. The letters? S-A-C-H-A.
Meaningless coincidence or a nudge from beyond? Or simply another unanticipated intersection between my sister and the woman whose vision called out to her so many years ago.