During the period of COVID-19, I devoted myself to trying to get the word out about the fantastic, technically innovative work of an entirely unknown, 88-year-old artist I first encountered in October of 2019. At that time, I was asked by the Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County to help organize a one-night-only exhibition of work by Holocaust survivors in our area. I met a number of wonderful individuals with fascinating stories, some of whom made terrific art. However, when I entered Mila Gokhman’s tiny, one bedroom apartment, it literally rocked my world. The apartment held a treasure trove of museum-quality art and design dating back almost fifty years.
Gokhman, who was born in Kiev in 1934, had achieved some measure of success as an artist and designer in Eastern Europe, where a dozen solo shows and considerable press were devoted to her work. In 2000, she abandoned her career and moved to the United States. For the past twenty years, with the exception of a small, two-person show at California State University, Fullerton, in 2010, she has lived in obscurity. Yet, she has continued not only to make art on a daily basis, but to conceive of elaborate future projects (evidence of which is seen in an image below). The whole of her production radiates life, joy, and movement. It indulges in and partakes of beauty. The work, like the vivacious, resilient artist herself, is imbued with remarkable spirit that defies Gokhman’s years of frustrated aspirations.
For the past several months, Gokhman has been my inspiration and source of motivation. With the help of Symone Sass, the social worker who introduced us, and her tech-savvy husband, Michael Sass, I have assembled a website devoted to her work, milagokhman.art. I have published an interview with the artist in voyage l.a. magazine. I authored an article that appeared in the online publication, Art and Cake. I have also taken upon myself the task of cataloguing the enormous quantity of art, jewelry, and accessories still in the artist’s possession.
What Gokhman seeks most at this point in her life is recognition for the originality, vision, and technical perfection of her art. The accumulated energy of her lifetime of work pulsates against the walls of her tiny apartment, waiting to be loosed upon the world. I am hopeful that a museum or gallery will take up the cause and grant her the accolades she so deserves.
For my extended article on Gokhman in Woman’s Art Journal, Fall/Winter 2022, click here.