Through the month of January, patrons of the East Meadow Public Library would walk into their art gallery and get a look inside Helene Berman’s mind and vision.
“She painted so that we could see ourselves in her work,” said Jude Schanzer, the library’s programming director. “They always speak to the viewer and fulfill the viewers vision, as well as their own.”
The East Meadow artist won Best in Show at a recent Juried Art Show at the library. Schanzer said she made sure to reach out to her when the library found a space to convert into an art gallery at the Samanea New York Market, the former Source Mall in Westbury.
In November, they began planning to hold an art show in the new gallery exhibiting Berman’s work. But, Schanzer said, she called and “revealed that she was very ill, but that she wanted this show to happen.”
She died on Thanksgiving after a long illness. She was 88.
To celebrate her art and her legacy, the library exhibited her art at the Samanea New York Market through the month of January with an opening reception on Jan. 5.
Berman’s friends and family came out to celebrate their loved one’s life and were touched by the tribute, said Susan Birnbaum, Berman’s daughter.
“My sister-in-law put it as sitting Shiva twice,” Birnbaum said. “I just saw it as a tribute to her life.”
Berman was born in New York City, moved to New Jersey from 1957 through 1959 and then moved to East Meadow where she lived for 60 years.
She went to George Washington High School and got her Bachelor’s degree in education at Hunter College in 1951, while also studying art.
Berman married Ivan Tullman Berman in Dec. 19, 1951 and they moved to East Meadow roughly eight years later. After Birnbaum was born, her mother picked up a paintbrush again. She continued pursuing her passion and took lessons with an artist in East Meadow.
Berman’s husband was athletic and loved to take her on different adventurous trips. On one excursion in 1974, the two tried cross-country skiing and Berman hurt her leg.
After having it examined by her doctor, Berman found out that it wasn’t from the skiing at all and was diagnosed with a type of sarcoma. Berman’s daughter was 15 at the time and recalled the impact it had on her. Berman immediately had her leg amputated and the cancer, fortunately, cleared her body, Birnbaum said.
Even through Berman’s diagnoses, “she never stopped painting,” Schanzer said.
Berman took lessons at the Roslyn Museum of Art and went on to have her work on display at venues and art shows across Long Island and the northeast region. Some venues included Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania and the New York Institute of Technology with the TriCounty Artists of Long Island.
In the library’s newsletter, Schanzer wrote an article promoting Berman’s work and, in it, she says, “Helene was an extraordinary woman. Always graceful, though in a wheel chair; always charming, though faced with many challenges; always generous to us with her time, knowledge and kindness.”
Berman is predeceased by her husband Ivan Tullman Berman.
Berman is survived her daughter Susan Birnbaum and her husband Hy; her son Craig Berman and his wife Leslie; her son Steven Berman, and four grandchildren Allison, Kyle, Ian and Jenny.