Aaron Wasserman’s career as a sculptor actually began when, at age 10 or so, he set the curtains afire in the family’s Brooklyn apartment while trying to craft a figure out of melted wax. It was like a scene from a Neil Simon play! Here was the family living (as most Jewish immigrant families of the times did), in an overcrowded apartment in the boroughs, and here was a young man with an unshakeable determination to do his creative thing. After the curtain incident, there was no more at-home sculpting, but, again like a Neil Simon story, there was no stopping of Aaron’s determination to sculpt, either.
Through grade and high school, he became friends with other aspiring young artists and they got together to share working space so each could pursue his “thing.”
Aaron did his undergraduate work at Brooklyn College (probably as much known for its basketball teams as for its academic standing though it and CCNY notably attracted the best and brightest minds of the area, both as students and as professors). On graduation, he went to work at the family’s business in Manhattan, but he also registered for professional classes in sculpture, and, for a number of years he not only studied with but also became an assistant to the instructor in the Education Department at his alma mater.
By this time he had married and, with that (thank you, Helen), he had work space of his own, in the basement of their home in Croton on Hudson.
It is not surprising that much of Aaron’s work in sculpture reflects his overwhelming involvement with family, with interpersonal relationships, with issues projecting the humane and the moral. In his lifetime, as a quintessential member of the so-called “greatest generation,” that was essentially what life was all about – and that was what Aaron so successfully conveys in his work.
In much of Aaron’s work, too, there is remarkable movement. No matter what the material he uses for the piece, the overall look conveys movement, action, reality.
Lest we inaccurately leave Aaron in the basement of his Croton home with his dancers and his models, there were several other particularly interesting stages of his (and Helen’s) life, and of his sculpting. (He reports that he has done about 100 sculptures over the years, and that he still has a piece in the works at his present home which he returns to from time to time. He and Helen have been residents of Lasell Village, the on-campus retirement community at Lasell College almost since its very beginnings.)
When the United Nations was established and it set up its first headquarters in the United States, it was located on Long Island close to the area where the Wassermans were living at the time. Included as part of its planning was a resident community for the UN members of different colors and cultures who would be coming from all over the world.
The Wassermans were, they say, most fortunate to be able to lease an apartment at this community and can’t talk enough about the experience of raising their children in so broad and stimulating an environment. Years later, when their children moved on to more typical public school settings, they were amazed to find that, unlike all their prior experiences, “everyone in the class looks the same!”
Helen particularly remembers that one of their closest neighbors at the UN community was Betty Friedan, a primary mover and shaker in the feminist movement, and author of the widely celebrated book “The Feminine Mystique”. (Working with Betty, Helen and she started a nursery school for the youngsters at the UN community, when it was still in its Long Island setting which evolved into a grade school and ultimately went to Manhattan when the UN headquarters moved there.)
Aaron, for his part, was also branching out in various ways with his sculpting.
He had long been an admirer of Picasso’s sculptures – not, for him, the pictures, as much as the sculptures. He was especially drawn to a bust of Picasso, and decided to take a try at producing this impressive representation of his own.
Aaron was also especially intrigued with the way Picasso often stressed the eyes in his carvings of animals and that too has made its way into his own work over the years.
Myril Axelrod has been a writer for newspapers, magazine and professional journals for many years. She was a reporter for the New York newspaper PM and a vice president of Young and Rubicam advertising agency. She was a pioneer in adapting focus groups and in-depth interviewing for the marketing community. For the past four years she has lived at Lasell Village in Newton.