[Hpn] A Sculptor's Legacy; daughter of late sculptor lives in a homeless shelter
Morgan W. Brown
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:
Sunday, June 24, 2001
The Hartford Courant <http://www.ctnow.com>
A Sculptor's Legacy
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has withdrawn twice as much in management fees as he has doled out for her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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
**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.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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