A BRIEF HISTORY OF MYRON
Myron was born in October 1939 to Sidney Rubenstein and Gussie Eiser in Newark, New Jersey. Sidney fled Poland with his parents to come to the US and met Gussie whose family arrived even earlier in the US. They were later joined by Myron’s sister Terry (Zimmerman) and settled in Hillside NJ. Early pioneers in a great Jewish tradition, they moved to Coral Gables, Florida in pursuit of sunshine and great weather.
While a happy child, Myron struggled with stuttering. At an early age he adopted drawing and art as a way of communicating. He graduated from Miami High School and briefly pursued chemistry at the University of Florida. More inclined to the arts than science, he returned to his family who had moved back to the Northeast. There he enrolled in the school that eventually became New York’s School of Visual Arts.
While in art school he was set up by his cousin on a date at the Hanover Swim Club. There, he met his first love Arlene Glickenhaus, whom he married in 1964, beginning a 26-year marriage and friendship. They would go on to have 2 children: Paul Rubenstein and Jacqui Gross.
Upon finishing art school, Myron went to work in the creative department at several ad agencies. Armed with markers and ink, he went on to produce everything from branding for muffin franchises to designing restaurant menus. His strong, uncompromising vision and big imagination were at odds with the nature of big advertising. (Anyone who has ever met Myron would laugh at the thought of him in a conference room taking feedback from a corporate exec in a suit).
With two kids to feed, Myron kept his day-job, but returned to fine-arts. Beginning in the 70s, he always had a sketchbook and pen at his side. His drawings were an intricate journey inward, full of details and often depicting distorted figures in distress and motion. These were contrasted by other sketchbooks dedicated to the female form. Many of these sketches were the inspiration for his larger works in oil and acrylic, as well as an early series of woodblocks and zinc plates.
After the death of his mother in 1974, Myron moved the family to Union NJ. A big basement was turned into a studio, and he began his first period of creating art that was both highly productive and experimental. Giant canvases were laid on the floor as paint was coaxed into free-flowing forms. Giant ink-pen drawings were filled in with intricate watercolours. Zinc plates were etched and printed. One special treasure from this period was a small book about a journey to space created for his son. Another was each hand-created card for family members for birthdays.
Myron always included his children in his pursuit of art. Both Jacqui and Paul were encouraged to pick up pen and ink and create alongside him. They tagged along to sit for hours at local art shows; waiting for the judges to come by and for someone to (hopefully) buy something. One of Myron’s inner conflicts was laid bare at these moments: he never really wanted to sell any of his art. He just wanted recognition and validation. It was never about the money. And Myron did receive recognition during this period, winning competitions and awards from local arts groups in Northern New Jersey.
One of the greatest joys as Myron’s kids has always been exploring galleries and museums with him. The earliest memories of MoMA and the (old) Whitney are exceptionally happy moments. While some dads coached soccer, Myron ground his kids in French impressionists and modern American painters. Exploring a range of artist from Lucien Freud to Willem de Kooning, he patiently explained the context and the ‘how’ of each painting, guiding their eyes and encouraging deeper exploration.
Myron also instilled his own playful sense of humour and giant imagination upon his kids. A model rocket became a trip to the moon. A giant backyard telescope became a journey through space and time. Science fiction became more than just a genre, it became a safe space to imagine who you could be, and a license to connect with fantasy without ever being embarrassed.
One of the more surprising artistic explorations for Myron was community theatre. After being invited to create sets for the local Jewish Community Theater group, he found himself on-stage. His credits included Horace Vandergedler in Hello Dolly, J.B. Biggley in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the Stage Manager in Mame and the King in Once Upon a Mattress. With a powerful voice and a big presence he acted, sang and danced. On stage, Myron never stuttered once.
By 1979 Myron was at his breaking point when it came to his day job. Encouraged by his wife and a colleague, he co-founded a small ad agency. He worked hard. He left early every morning, preferring the quiet empty time in an office to create. Rows of paper coffee cups were strewn about his creative space. Piles of markers, scraps of drawings and random magazine cut-outs were placed semi-logically to inspire his visions. Bits of type and photostats were laid in sequence. The paths in Myron’s head magically transformed the chaos into a message that conveyed emotion through design.
Weekends at the studio or office always included the kids. These mornings were magical, as Myron gave his kids the gift of music and public radio. There was never a moment without music or radio playing in the background. Pop music was never present as Myron explored jazz, classical, reggae and experimental sounds. Public Radio was another way in which Myron helped his children expand their worldview. Together with his kids, WBAI helped Myron teach them about nutrition, radical politics, the teaching of Alan Watts and ‘alternative’ lifestyles.
Around 1984 Myron bought his first Mac. He was an early adopter of software to design and produce print-ready materials. Watching him wield a mouse with the same deftness as a paintbrush was inspiring. At the same time, he treated file systems like a paint pallet. To him, structure and order were as much a nuisance in the digital world as it in day-to-day life.
In the late 80s theatre gave way to another of Myron’s great passions, sailing. He bought a small sailboat and docked it at the Monmouth Sailing Center. With his kids and a rotating list of guests, they explored every inch of the Shrewsbury River and ventured out past Sandy Hook into the Raritan Bay and the edge of Brooklyn. He loved the solitude and peace of the water and the constant tinkering and repairs to the boat. His favourite moments though, were at the dock, when he would bring out his ever-present sketchbook and pen to capture images of his guests or express the thoughts in his mind.
The 1990s began a second, highly productive period of work for Myron. After a divorce, he moved to Hoboken and then Jersey City. He dissolved his ad agency and took design jobs only as a means of supporting his art. He worked tirelessly to create and exhibit. He was embraced by the Jersey City arts community and made many lasting friendships. Returning primarily to oil painting, he produced a series of abstracts inspired by the female form. There were countless weekends where his son would bike from Manhattan across the GW bridge to join him in open studios at his Hoboken loft for live model drawing. Family and friends would make countless treks in search of a hard-to-find gallery where they would take in art, but also experience the deep bonds formed by a community of artists.
This major period of creativity was also a period of great financial and emotional struggle for Myron. Frustration and urgency drove tireless work as ideas piled up in his head faster than they could be transformed into physical form. Each painting was never ‘finished’, and he was never fully satisfied with any work produced. Endless sketchbooks were filled. The limitations of oil and canvas were conquered as video and fabric were incorporated into works.
There are some outstanding memories his family shares from this period. Watching his grandchildren actively paint on his art during an exhibition was certainly one. Another was a series of 8 panels depicting himself and his family members with an eerie film of his body projected over it. (This was also the show that many friends will remember as the ‘glass penis’ moment). Other shows included a giant series of deeply coloured portraits whose tortured form engaged you with both pain and beauty.
It was a sunny Sunday when Myron was on a date, and by co-incidence ran into his son at MoMA. That was also the start of his relationship with longtime companion Helene Berinsky. Helene and Myron were regulars at open studios in SoHo and avid explorers of the arts.
In 2005 Myron’s show at Manhattan’s Noho Gallery represented a new direction in his work. He began working in mixed digital and analog techniques. He began modifying modern inkjet printers to create ethereal images on canvas. At first, he started by drawing on the computer. This technique evolved as he scanned his drawings and etchings, then manipulated them digitally. Many pieces were finished by hand. It often became hard to tell if a piece began as digital or physical as layers of manipulation were worked and reworked.
Later, Myron and Helene would settle in Wakefield, Rhode Island. His productivity accelerated. Canvases became bigger and bigger – sometimes over 5 feet. Copper and zinc plates took two people to lift and print. He also began splitting his time between painting at home and printmaking at AS220 in Providence RI. He was especially proud of his printmaking grant from Rhode Island’s state art council. During this period he was regularly curated into group exhibitions at the Hera Gallery, AS220 and 19 on Paper.
In 2008, Myron suffered a heart attack and stroke, leaving him with limited mobility. Despite his limited mobility, he was able to complete one final solo exhibition at AS220 in 2010. He eventually moved to St Elizabeth’s Greenhouse 17 in East Greenwich Rhode Island where he was an anchor for a community of caring and love. He continued to paint and draw up until his final days.
Myron’s family is eternally grateful to the amazing team of caregivers at the St Elizabeth Greenhouse Community. He was truly blessed to have such an amazing environment to care for his needs and live out his life in his own special way.
Myron passed away at age 82, peacefully from complications due to Covid. He is actively painting, sailing and drawing in his dreams. We wish him well.
Myron is survived by:
His two children:
Paul Rubenstein and his husband Trevor of Vancouver, British Columbia and
Jacqui Gross and her husband Allen of Fanwood, New Jersey;
Michael and Adam Gross
Terry Zimmerman and her husband Irving;
Helene Berinsky of Wakefield
Arlene Rubenstein of Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Countless nieces, nephews and cousins.
A Vibrant Art Community
An Amazing Community of Caretakers at Greenhouse 17