[Hpn] A Sculptor's Legacy; daughter of late sculptor lives in a homeless shelter

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Sun, 24 Jun 2001 12:31:57 -0400


Julia Weinberg, daughter of the late sculptor Elbert Weinberg, now lives in 
a shelter for the homeless in Hartford Connecticut:

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-------Forwarded article-------

Sunday, June 24, 2001
The Hartford Courant <http://www.ctnow.com>
[Connecticut]
A Sculptor's Legacy
<http://www.ctnow.com/scripts/editorial.dll?eetype=Article&eeid=4794248&render=y&ck=&ver=3.0>

By JACK DOLAN
The Hartford Courant


The artistic legacy of the late Hartford sculptor Elbert Weinberg is 
well-cared for and residing in exclusive quarters.

One piece rests with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, two are in the 
Museum of Modern Art in New York and a large metalwork dominates a park near 
the state Capitol in Hartford.

But in a cruel irony, which in another time and place might have lent 
creative grist for a dark Weinberg abstract, the human legacy of the
world-renowned sculptor has not fared nearly as well.

Weinberg's mentally ill daughter, Julia Weinberg, is living in a Hartford 
shelter for the homeless, despite a trust fund left for her when her father 
died in 1991. While she struggles, a family friend who administers the fund 
has withdrawn twice as much in management fees as he has doled out for her 
benefit in recent years, probate records show.

The trust, which was worth $363,000 as of last August, consists of cash, 
investments and a collection of Weinberg's art - including a bronze bust 
entitled "Julia: Age 3."

That 24-inch sculpture depicts a curly-haired, precocious little girl, whose 
beaming face contains no portent of the troubles that would plague the 
artist's only child later in life, despite his efforts to ensure her 
well-being after he was gone.

Now Julia - age 40 - finds herself in a predicament with just the
overtones of noir that fascinated her famous father. Friends say he
reveled in stories that captured life's absurdities and inspired a
portfolio of art that ranged from quirky statuettes of rabid dogs to
moving ruminations on the Holocaust.

"Elbert would regale us with appalling accounts of a romance gone sour, a 
wealthy client who owed him money but would not pay up, of people who seemed 
to exult in their ignorance, and other examples of human foibles," recalled 
Harold Tovish, a Boston sculptor and colleague of Weinberg's.

"These incidents of `real life' struck him as totally absurd and his stories 
were accompanied by howls of laughter - his the loudest."

It was while growing up in Europe - where Elbert Weinberg began
teaching in 1951 after winning a prestigious art fellowship, the Prix de 
Rome - that Julia Weinberg got her first, unsettling intimations
that her own life might end up resembling one of her father's stories.

In a recent interview outside the South Park Inn shelter, she talked openly 
about the bipolar disorder that has complicated her life, recalling that 
"even in school, I was a total outcast because of my bad personality." As 
she spoke, she often displayed a sardonic self-awareness that friends say 
was also her father's trademark.

"When I was 16, a girl at school in Switzerland said I was crazy," she said. 
"There was a mental institution near the high school and I just felt, you 
know, a connection."

While in Europe, her parents divorced, and when her father returned to 
Hartford, Julia followed. But her inability to concentrate doomed her first 
semester at Skidmore, so she dropped out and went to Japan, where she traded 
on her striking good looks and sophistication, working as a model and as a 
hostess in a trendy Tokyo karaoke bar. She added Japanese to the French and 
Italian she already spoke fluently.

Her most serious psychiatric problems, and the formal diagnosis of bipolar 
disorder, came after she returned to resume her education at the University 
of Connecticut, she said. There, she suffered a severe manic episode, 
becoming obsessed with a teaching assistant who, she confessed with an 
apologetic grin, she pursued to the point of
"psychological torture."

She moved in with her father, who tried to take her under his wing and teach 
her to sculpt, "make her his Pygmalion," said Julia's mother, Joy Davenport. 
But her personal problems steadily worsened and she started bouncing in and 
out of psychiatric wards, Julia said.

Amid his daughter's intermittent hospitalizations, Elbert Weinberg was 
diagnosed with a fatal bone marrow disease.

The tragic news came as Weinberg, whose critical success was never 
accompanied by great wealth, had at long last begun to see his art fetching 
higher prices. Julia remembers him blurting out, only half-jokingly, "I'm 
cursed!"

Weinberg died in 1991 at age 63, and Julia now regrets that her depression 
kept her from returning his displays of affection.

"When he came to see me, I was so cold. Even when he was dying, I was so 
matter of fact," she said. "The poor guy, he was such a lonely person."

But Weinberg, who Davenport said struggled silently with depression himself, 
never gave up on his daughter. Six months before his death he named Julia 
the sole heir to his estate and appointed a trustee, S. Joel Karp of Avon, a 
family friend and patron of the arts, to use the money as he "deems 
advisable for Julia's welfare."

Aware that his estate could never support Julia entirely, Weinberg carefully 
crafted the trust to ensure that it provided her with some material 
comforts, including "recreational and vacation opportunities," without 
endangering her access to public benefits for the mentally disabled - her 
primary means of support.

Indeed, since her father died, Julia has lived in tiny apartments on 
government assistance. But a month ago she was locked out in a dispute with 
the landlord and since then has been staying at the shelter while she awaits 
placement in a psychiatric treatment facility.

Julia's options appear limited.

Her mother, who lives in Switzerland, said she doesn't have the resources to 
take care of her daughter. And her father's trust fund, which was not 
intended to be her "primary means of support," would seem to be out of 
reach.

What's more, she is not on good terms with Karp. Julia - who acknowledges 
she can be difficult to deal with - said he will communicate with her only 
through a court-appointed intermediary.

Julia traces the rift between them to an incident a few years ago, when, she 
said, Karp turned down her request for $1,500 to accompany a friend to St. 
Croix. The friend eventually paid her way, but when Julia returned to 
Connecticut, she went to Hartford Probate Court and asked for an annual 
accounting of the trust.

Although Karp has been trustee since Weinberg's death in 1991, the financial 
summary he provided to the court last summer went back only to 1997. Julia 
complained, but Hartford Probate Judge Robert Killian said Karp's accounting 
is sufficient.

The accounting showed that since 1997, Karp and a co-trustee he named to 
help administer the trust, Harold Lindenthal of California, have withdrawn 
more than $35,626 in fees and commissions. Over the same period, Julia has 
received $13,288 for, among other things, winter clothes, dental work and a 
college course.

The overall value of the trust declined from $405,000 to $363,000 between 
1997 and August of 2000, the records show. Because of the lack of an 
accounting prior to 1997, it is unclear what the trust was worth when 
Weinberg died.

Karp and Lindenthal did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment.

Killian said he thought Karp's fees seemed "heavy," and he questioned a 
separate $11,000 outlay to set up an Internet site - www.elbertweinberg.com 
- featuring Weinberg's unsold artwork, which so far has not generated many 
sales. But, in general, he said Julia has been treated fairly.

"I don't have any reason to suspect that the trustees have done anything 
wrong," Killian said. "In the totality, I think they have administered the 
trust reasonably well, in tough circumstances. The trust is largely a 
collection of artwork which people believe has a value, but so far it hasn't 
sold."

So, unable to access her father's money and with her mother unable to help, 
Elbert Weinberg's only daughter sits in the homeless shelter. Meanwhile her 
landlord, frustrated that her belongings remain in her old apartment, 
recently started tossing things out indiscriminately, Julia said.

Among the items damaged was her only remaining piece of her father's 
sculpture: A small clay figure of a seated man with a powerful hand around 
the shoulder of a child who is resting her head on his knee.

Julia returned to the apartment one day last week to collect what was left 
of her things and found the figure knocked off her bedroom dresser, the 
man's head a small pile of white dust on the floor.

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**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA


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