Ethel S. Brody: Article in the Free Times by Dan Cook

Issue #21.10 :: 03/05/2008 – 03/11/2008
A Show of Her Own

Longtime Museum Benefactor in Solo Gallery Exhibit


Anyone who spends much time at functions held at the Columbia Museum of Art has likely run across Ethel Brody. Along with her sister, Leona Sobel, Brody is a longtime supporter of the museum — an avid art collector who has often served on the museum’s board and has also chaired its acquisitions committee.

“Ethel has been a very special friend to the museum for many, many years,” says Ellen Woodoff, the museum’s director of marketing and communications. “She has been a huge supporter of ours for so many years through donations of art, funds and her time.”

While many museum attendees know Brody through her contributions to that institution, fewer know of Brody’s own artistic pursuits. That should change this week with the opening of Ethel Brody: Her Works at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. There is an opening reception Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., and the show continues through March 18.

Born in New York City in 1923, Brody developed her love of the arts in a home where piano, dance, art lessons and trips to that city’s world-class museums were routine. She went on to study art in college in the 1940s and went back to school in the late 1960s to study printmaking and art education. After her husband died in 1964, Brody lived at different times in Sumter (her husband’s hometown), Columbia and Myrtle Beach, settling in Columbia permanently in 1980.

Night Song by Ethel Brody

Once in Columbia, she quickly got involved with the museum. She volunteered in the museum shop and befriended the curator, who asked her and Leona to serve on the collections committee.

“I have been on it ever since,” Brody says in an interview included in the show catalog. “I consult a lot with the curators. If they are looking for something specific, I go out and try to find it, and I often give money for purchases.”

As for her own art, exhibit organizer Wim Roefs says Brody is “a serious painter, and she works every day.”

“She has been doing this for a long time, but she has never been all that career-minded about it,” says Roefs, who was hired by Brody to organize the show and produce a 36-page, full-color catalog.

One of the things that intrigues Roefs about Brody is that “she approaches a hobby in a professional manner in terms of the dedication and the time she puts in” — about four hours of painting a day, he says.

Another thing that interests him is the breadth of her work.

“She tries a lot of different stuff,” Roefs says. “She gets a lot of inspiration from looking at other artists. When she leaves Columbia, she goes to museums — she and her sister are just roaming around going to museums. But the funny thing is that while she balances so many influences and engages so many influences, it leads to a highly diverse body of work — but you can also see that it’s Ethel, and it has a strong design element to it. She likes textiles and glass art a lot, but at heart she is a designer.”

Overall, Roefs says, three things stand out most about Brody’s work. The first two are “a strong design element” and “bold colors.” In addition, he says, there is her sense of experimentation.

“Most of her works are acrylic paintings, but she also loves printmaking, woodcuts, mixed media. She loves to experiment … her stuff is remarkably not derivative for someone who looks so much to other artists for clues and impulses.”

(To view more information about Ethel S. Brody, her art, and her solo exhibition, click here. To view Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, where Ethel’s studio is located, please visit the website:

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