Sandy Kaplan took her first hand-building clay class at Craft Alliance in 1989 with nationally exhibited artist and instructor James Ibur – while amid her fundraising career. “My work evolved as I began to create figurative and narrative vessels and sculptures,” she says. “I even transferred the sewing I did years ago to making clothes out of clay with little difficulty.”
She calls Buzz Spector, professor emeritus at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, her mentor. In 2012, when Spector selected several of her ceramic sculptures for an exhibit he was curating at the Regional Arts Commission, he stated: “The exuberance of the men and women adorning Kaplan’s vase-like forms can certainly be read as emblematic of the artist’s zest for life, but the good times she depicts circle around the central emptiness of each vessel.”
Kaplan explains: “Since that time, Buzz encouraged me to think about developing the interior of my vessels, which has resulted in several creative interiors to enhance the complex narratives of my vessels.”
At Craft Alliance’s clay studio, she sculpts figures of well-known artists, authors and musicians, as well as iconic figures, such as actress Audrey Hepburn, globetrotting chef Anthony Bourdain and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She calls her Ernest Hemingway sculpture A Moveable Feast her largest and most challenging installation: “It was a major challenge, but the process was a great learning experience.” Her Eugene O’Neill and the Women in His Life sculpture is part of the permanent collection at the Olin Library at Washington University.
A 1961 graduate of University City High School, Kaplan went through a divorce and became a single parent when her two daughters were in grade school. Returning to the workforce, she embarked on a 30-year fundraising career that included stints at Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Jewish Hospital/Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, Hope Happens for Neurological Disorders, the Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Washington University, Congregation B’nai Amoona and Dance St. Louis. She retired from fundraising 10 years ago and now focuses more time on her second career of creating ceramic sculptures.
Kaplan enjoys riding her bicycle, working out and dancing – especially during the pandemic. “I have always loved to dance and found taking outdoor aerobics and Zumba classes during the pandemic [to be] great exercise, uplifting and fun,” she says.
Kaplan, who lives in Richmond Heights, gives back to the community through her volunteerism. She has served as chair of the membership committee of Women and the Kemper at Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. “These memberships support museum initiatives that directly benefit students and bring museum programming to a wide public audience,” Kaplan says. She otherwise has served on the Craft Alliance gala committee for several years.
Fond of eating dark chocolate, cappuccino biscotti, and her daughter’s gelato during quarantine, she also spent her time this year creating a timeline of happenings during the COVID-19 era. She says she penned it to capture what should be a yearly Facebook reminder to both her and her friends that “life is precious, and we should not take the things we dearly love for granted.”
An innate storyteller and award-winning photographer and writer, Alice Handelman provides Ladue News readers with a glimpse into lives that enrich St. Louis.