Born : 24th April 1928 - Lithuania
Died : 26th November 2017, California, USA
Married : Julia Kiefer in Germany
Children : Marius & Sylvia
SCULPTOR & PAINTER
AMERICAN - LITHUANIAN
Courtesy of :
Jurgis Sapkus was born April 24, 1928 to a Catholic family in Lithuania. Jurgis used to tell of his father, who was something of an artist himself, crafting dioramas from things he found in the forest around his home.
At the age of 14 Jurgis became the youngest performer with a Lithuanian folk music and dance troupe. When the Germans occupied the country during WWII, the company was ordered to perform for the German troops, eventually being transferred to Vienna, and later Berlin. Before the Russians arrived to occupy Berlin, as the Allies were bombing the city, Jurgis made a harrowing escape by train to rural Bavaria. After the war Jurgis remained in Germany as a displaced person and was allowed to attend art school in Freiburg. It was there in 1949 that Jurgis met fellow art student Julia Kiefer, who soon became his wife. Jurgis and Julia spent many hours with Julia's family. Jurgis had a special connection to his father-in-law, who was both a gifted musician and painter.
As a refugee from now Soviet occupied Lithuania, Jurgis was able to immigrate to the US in 1951 with Julia and their newborn son, Marius. They settled in Chicago, though neither of them yet spoke English. Jurgis worked hard in the notorious Chicago stockyards in order to support his family, as well as to save up for tuition to attend the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago. In 1953 Julia returned to her family in Germany for the birth of their second child, Sylvia. Meanwhile, Jurgis was accepted at the Art Institute and quickly developed as a sculptor. It was in Chicago during these years that Jurgis received his first major commissions.
In 1961 Jurgis heard through an artist friend who had moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, that Mattel Toys was looking for sculptors and designers to help develop new products.
Marius remembers Jurgis sitting at their old kitchen table in Chicago, working on a wax doll head to submit as part of his application. Though quickly hired by Mattel, the family chose to take their time in moving to California so that they could see some of the country. Instead of flying directly to Los Angeles they embarked on a cross-country train trip, finally arriving in Hawthorne, California. Several months later they would find what would become their home in Manhattan Beach.
Jurgis went to work for Mattel while Julia, Marius, and Sylvia settled into their new life. Everyday while driving to work Jurgis would notice a woman he recognized from Mattel, waiting for a bus on Rosecrans. One day he decided to stop and offer her a ride. She accepted and thus began a lifetime friendshp with Filis Frederick and his life changing introduction to Meher Baba.
The above bio is courtesy of AMB Center of Southern California. ( January 2018 newsletter )
Jurgis Šapkus is a contemporary Lithuanian painter and sculptor in Southern California. He was born in Lithuania, and came to the United States in 1952. He studied art at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers in Freiburg, at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, Germany, and later at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
"Remember Me and all headaches will disappear."
Statue at the MPR at Meherabad
Pilgrim Retreat, the new building at upper Meherabad, is due to
open for full-time pilgrim accommodation next season, June 2006.
Construction is complete and the building is now undergoing furnishing and decoration.
While furniture building, administrative preparations, and the
outfitting of kitchen equipment are going on, another aspect of final preparation
is the installation of many works of art and decoration by a number artists.
For this purpose, a little colony of painters, decorators, sculptors, and picture framers
has been established in the building itself.
From August onwards several artists-in-residence have
been working on installing their pieces while they live in a few of the rooms at the Retreat.
Meals are delivered to them from the Pilgrim Centre.
The atmosphere is one of quiet dedication and long work hours. A tour
through the rooms, halls and courtyards shows an amazing variety of
pieces being created and installed, and the total effect is truly impressive
in magnitude. Notable too is the number of countries represented by
the artists. There are contributors from America, India,
Spain, England, Serbia, Australia, Lithuania, Iran and perhaps
some I've missed! In recent weeks there have been seven artists in
residence at the Retreat, another 6 or so at Meherabad working on some of the projects, and
at least another 7 artists who have works which will be installed over the next few months.
Jurgis Sapkus, originally from Lithuania, is a well-known Baba sculptor from Los Angeles.
When Jurgis arrived early in the pilgrim season, his first task was to travel to Makhrana, Rajasthan,
to acquire a large piece of white marble for his life-size sculpture of Baba and Mohammed Mast.
The trip to get the marble is a story in itself, a success, and his work in the courtyard at MPR
is shaping up beautifully.
Mohammed's laughing face and Baba's tender embrace are captivating as they
emerge from Jurgis's expert chisel strokes. The luminescent marble,
of the same type as India's Taj Mahal, is harder and more prone to splits than
the Arizonan marble Jurgis has used previously, so he finds this aspect of the work challenging.
Jurgis intends to finish the piece by the end of December.