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Michael Lieberman, an appreciation of a wonderful human, great writer and dear friend

We lost a dear friend and contributor this summer. Michael Lieberman, who wrote for Artblog from 2014-2021, was loved by many, including his colleagues at Artblog. We miss him.

Man with goatee wearing orange hat and glasses
Michael Lieberman

Over the seven years that Michael Lieberman wrote for Artblog, I was privileged to be his editor. Michael wrote 83 reviews for us between 2014-2021, a remarkable body of work — almost one article a month, which is large output when you have a lot of other things going on in your life, as Michael did. He was an omnivorous art reviewer and wrote about paintings, movies, books, even the Miami art fairs. He was interested in everything, in venues large and small, and he brought an open mind, and a criticality that was pointed, yet gentle and helpful. Michael used words as a painter would, with passion, confidence, exactitude and flair. He was a natural and empathetic storyteller of art. His writing focused on human stories, and he imbued his pieces with the spirit of social justice. He was persuasive without being heavy-handed, responsive and delicate in his critic’s touch. And, he was a gracious writer for an editor to work with: collegial, a team member.

Below are a couple quotes from Michael’s reviews on Artblog. You can read all 83 on his author pages, and I recommend that you do dig in to the rich offerings he provided. It was a delight to work with Michael. We all really miss him.

About paintings, Michael was poetic. About a group of cartoonish abstract works, he said:

they “defy gravity — they’re animated, and a little tipsy.”

Not everyone could have come up with “tipsy” to describe art, but the word captured perfectly the sense of whimsy Michael found in the works and it was a bold choice.

He saw a documentary film at BlackStar Film Fest in 2017 that was about Ferguson, MO, after the killing of 18-year old Michael Brown by police officer, Darren Wilson. About movies (which he loved for their human stories), his words were declarative and emphatic:

“I was thinking about the names – Brown and Wilson… About black and white. About the divides between the black and white communities in our country. While those divides may be changing as the non-white population of the country grows, “Whose Streets?” presents a profound demonstration of the ongoing intolerable, pernicious effects of racism and racial injustice upon our society. When Officer Wilson made that comment denying racism, the nearly all black audience at the BlackStar film screening I attended erupted in jeers. I wish there had been a larger white contingent there to witness that.”

People standing inside listening to someone speaking.
Michael Lieberman, pictured here with Roberta, Catherine Rush and Carly Bellini, attending the press opening of “Philadelphia Assembled” at the PMA in 2017. Photo by Stephen Perloff

Obituary for Michael

Written by Michael and his daughter

Michael Lieberman, 72, of Philadelphia, PA. On July 29th, 2021 Michael ended his 12 year long battle with a rare form of incurable cancer. He accomplished his wish to see the end of our former president’s tenure, and he did so in the peace and comfort of his own home surrounded by love and admiration from the many lives he touched over the course of his vibrant life. Born to the late Benjamin and Ina Lieberman, his life brimmed with radiance. The impressive variety of his professional life shows us a part of the remarkable journey he led: as a teenaged-lifeguard on the shores of Fire Island, as a clinical social worker after earning his MSW at Smith College, as a clerk for The Honorable late John J. Gerry, former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, as a lawyer and shareholder at the Philadelphia law firm formerly known as Hangley, Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, as a gallerist at his very own art gallery, Hooloon Art, in Old City Philadelphia, as a writer and reviewer for The Art Blog and finally as member of Rittenhouse Writer’s group where he wrote short fiction. Through the plethora of relationships he tended, through his awe-inspiring writing, and through his deep devotion to his health and well-being, Michael lived a life of joyous vivacity. Let him be remembered for his unusual and witty humor, his soothing sensitivity, his guiding wisdoms, his inspiring creativity, his eclectic and idiosyncratic thoughts and opinions, and his devoted, passionate and intimately loving nature. He will be sorely missed but let his life carry on within us forever, most tenderly through his wife Judge Ashely M. Chan, through his two children, Sonia and Hannah Lieberman, through his step-children Simon and George Gottlieb, through Sonia and Hannah’s mother Nancy Winkleman, through his brothers Chet and Daniel Lieberman, through Daniel’s wife Michele Lieberman and their children Zach, Ruby and Dash and through the countless relationships he’s made along the way. In lieu of flowers or food, if you would like to make a contribution in his honor, please make a donation to Camphill Village Kimberton Hills via their website or via cash or check to CKVH DevelopmentOffice, PO Box 1045 Kimberton, PA 19442. CKVH is a community for disabled people, where Michael’s eldest daughter Sonia resides. Services are private.

Group of people sitting and standing around a table with food on it, smiling for the camera.
Artblog writers gathering at Cultureworks, Philadelphia, in the Fall, 2016. Seated is Libby Rosof. First row left to right, Flora Ward, Martha Kearns, Roberta Fallon, Steve Kimbrough. Back row left to right, Hammam Aldouri, Ron Kanter, Michael Lieberman, Donald Hunt, Andrea Kirsh, Evan Laudenslaber, Tina Plokarz, Ephraim Russell and his son, August. Photo by Anna Gibertini