The Art of Morrie Markoff

“When you reach the age of 100, suddenly, even if you did nothing notable, you are a celebrity. Friends, even longtime ones, neighbors and strangers look at you differently. You see and feel it. When perfect strangers find out, they shake your hand, as if, by osmosis, you can transfer the secrets of long life to them.”
  • “Keep Breathing: Recollections from a 103-year-old,” by Morrie Markoff

Special Festival copies of Morrie’s Book at LA TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS at USC are all gone! Thank you to everyone for stopping by! More pics and updates on the way.

“Keep Breathing” – Now on sale at Lulu.com (20% discount)

MM Festival 4-22-2017
Morrie Markoff signing copies of his book “Keep Breathing” at the LA Times Festival of Books at USC Saturday, April 22, 2017, Booth 35.

The Ballerina was my first metal sculpture. In the 1960s, I was inspired while fixing a part in the toilet in the Los Angeles appliance store I c0-owned.

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The writer at work March 2017

It looked like a ballerina tutu and so I pulled out my machinist tools and created this sculpture. I didn’t have a background in art, I was a trained machinist turned vacuum salesman and entrepreneur. Over the years I created many sculptures, then one day I stopped. At the age of 100, after a chance meeting at a bus stop, I was offered my first gallery showing. Now, I am working on a memoir of my life, from New York tenements to the Los Angeles condo I live in with my wife of more than 75 years, Betty. Now, at the age of 103, I have finished my memoirs and am working on getting them published.

chesswp
When I was living at the “project” at Avenel, it was usual for me to go to an area in Griffith Park where chess players congregated. I, too, am a chess player, although a mediocre one, and with a good opponent I would last for about six moves. I didn’t care as I enjoyed playing. The counterpoint was this old geezer at the end of the bench with the stump of a cigar in his mouth who was reading the sport pages, completely uninterested.
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One day I was sitting reading and this family took a park seat opposite me across the road. I noticed the little girl put her head in her mother’s lap, and was soon asleep. In about 10 minutes, so was the mother. The man, who was reading, shortly fell asleep. What was odd to me was that he never let go of the paper.
Hippies
The fourth was a pair of sixties hippies returning from a protest demonstration still carrying a sign.
wpguitar
This was inspired by my daughter Judith playing the guitar.
wpspunky
This was inspired by watching Ben’s mother overfeed “Spunky” in a highchair. There will be more information on Ben and Spunky in my memoir.
aut-marriage
Another sculpture inspired by my daughter, this one is about her first marriage. Judith opened the successful Gorky’s restaurant in the 1980s, which I discuss more in my memoirs.
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Inspiration from a scene I had seen in Mexico City. Seven steelworkers, tugging, dragging, pulling a beam into place so it could be in a position of hoisting. It was a hot, humid day. The men were sweaty and encouraged each other to move that beam through muddy ground.
aut-shoe-shine
A little sculpture of me shining shoes when I was a shoe shine boy at age 10 in East Harlem was inspired by an old duffer, my best customer, whom I write about in my memoir.
wpschool
Titled “The Schoolchildren,” this is the only piece I sold. I regret parting with it and never sold another sculpture again.
joybw
Joy is a sculpture inspired by my brother-in-law Don, an actor, dancer, and director in New York. Don, and his husband Wilkie, married for over 25 years, were one of the early courageous couples to openly declare their gayness.
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The last sculpture I made, my favorite, is called “The Family,” the most ambitious because of the complexity of the challenges.
keepbreathingcover
This is one of the early cover designs for my memoir. Special copies will be available at the LA Times Festival of Books at USC.

All told, I produced about 30 pieces, one-figured to six. Many I have given away to family and friends, and one, at the urging of Betty, I sold, which I now regret. It was a school scene of children sitting at their desks in various poses, one of the first I attempted with four figures.

It had been exhibited in a city art show at Barnsdall Park with a N.F.S. tag on it (not for sale). When I went to pick it up, two women were waiting for me. They had fallen in love with it and wanted to buy it. I said no. Leaving me their phone number, in case I changed my mind, we parted. Arriving at home, Betty asked me how the show went.

I told her two women who fell in love with the school scene offered me $100 for it. Betty said, “make them happy, sell it to them, you can make another.”

My guess is that it took eight hours to make. When I sold it, I used that money to buy a new acetylene welding set.

Unthinking, I said sure, I called them. They came, paid me the money, and with my sculpture lovingly locked into one of their hands, left smiling, like I like to see customers leave.

I never sold another. I am working on getting a museum to obtain my collection. Considering my age, I hope they respond fast.

I never strived to achieve the major milestones in my life from a gallery showing at age 100 to my diamond anniversary, but people seem to think I have some advice for them.

The title of my memoir is the only advice I have for anyone wishing to reach 100 years old.

Good Luck and Keep Breathing

Be sure to check back on updates on my book.

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Booth 35 location at USC – LA Times / Festival of Books – Trousdale Pkwy and Exposition Blvd