David Bloom works in mixed media.
David Bloom works in mixed media.

“Our Town Art Show and Sale” can be viewed online through May 6.

Two longtime artists and one emerging artist are among those juried into this year’s digital “Our Town Art Show and Sale,” the 36th, sponsored April 22-May 6 by the Community House of Birmingham.

Their entries, introducing new individual directions, will be among 200 chosen with a goal of having a mixture of art forms.

Steffanie Samuels, a nationally recognized ceramist for 20 years, has turned to oil pastels over manipulated photography to explore a different dimension in her creativity. 

Paula Zaks, who taught various art forms at Akiva Hebrew Day School and was an arts and crafts supervisor at Camp Tamarack, has zeroed in on encaustic (utilizing heated wax) prints.

David Bloom, whose career has been based in purchasing for an automaker, hadn’t thought about art since junior high school but recently felt inspired when contemplating additional pursuits. He turned to multi-media for an enhancement to painting and came up with abstracted work. 

For Samuels, the “Our Town” exhibit offers a popular platform to spotlight her evolution.

“I’ve moved from three-dimensional to two-dimensional,” said Samuels, a resident of Royal Oak and member of the National Council of Jewish Women. “I’m showing two pastel paintings enhanced by other media — Taking Shelter After the Rains and Shrouded Trees.

“I said what I had to say with clay and took a break from art by working for the University of Michigan as director of development for specific medical services. As time went on, I missed the creativity of the art world and discovered the joys of oil pastels and photography.”

Samuels, whose sculptural work has been featured in exhibitions at the White House and Smithsonian Institution, starts her newer projects with photographs taken in rapid succession, digitally manipulates the images, prints them on archival cotton rag paper and uses colored inks as base tones before layering oil pastels in a variety of methods. 

European Graffiti by Paula Zaks
European Graffiti by Paula Zaks

While Samuels gives her personal touch to the two-dimensional techniques, her sculptural projects still can be seen in the permanent collections of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Corporation of Michigan and Archie Bray Foundation in Montana among other buildings, as well as in art books and magazines.

Abstracted Images

Zaks is showing two very different works. Pieced Together 2 presents an encaustic print with texture and pattern providing an abstracted view of the human head. European Graffiti takes form as a painting using gouache and watercolor pencil to enhance an image originally captured in a photo. 

“Figurative and landscape subjects remain my primary interest since moving into encaustic techniques in 2009 after many years of working with watercolors,” Zaks said. “I don’t sketch, per se, so I dive right in with color layering and layering with collage. I begin a piece by randomly applying paint to a surface.”

Taking Shelter After the Rains by Steffanie Samuels
Taking Shelter After the Rains by Steffanie Samuels

Zaks, represented in private collections across the country and having participated in solo and group shows, has won many awards for her artistry, including first prize in this year’s “3rd Online Encaustic Exhibition.” Even during COVID, her work has been part of six shows.

Zip It Up! is the title of the work submitted by Bloom, a Birmingham resident who has been active with Temple Beth El and a Goodwill environmental subsidiary as well as civic interests as a founder of Birmingham Citizens for Responsible Government. 

“The mixed-media piece, which can be interactive, consists of two hearts zipped together on linen backed by suit and dress fabric,” Bloom explained. “It is mounted on a second canvas symbolizing the vibrating universe and the color spectrum.”

The piece can be viewed in different ways beyond as a single image. It also can be seen with the zipper partially opened against the canvas folded back or with the zipper completely opened. 

“The painting represents two people choosing to unite,” said Bloom, whose “Our Town” presence follows his selection into six other art shows, including two hosted by the Palos Verdes Art Center in California and another affiliated with the San Fernando Valley Arts and Cultural Center, also in California.

Now that Bloom has begun art projects, he is moving into a collaborative 175-foot mural for the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham, The mural is planned to make a unity statement for the community. Forty artists from across the country will be participating. 


“Our Town Art Show and Sale” can be viewed online April 22-May 6 at communityhouse.com/event/our-town-art-show-sale.

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