Helen Ciesla Covensky
Helen Covensky was born Hanka Ciesla, the daughter of a cultured Jewish family in Poland that supported her early interest in art. The Second World War changed her life completely. Her parents and sister died in concentration camps. Only she and her brother, David, survived.
Shortly after the war, she emigrated to the United States. At this time, she changed her name from Hanka to Helen, in memory of her mother, Helena. (Covensky often signs her work both Hanka Ciesla and Helen Covensky, expressing her sense of the continuity of life.) During the 1950's and 60's, she took courses in art history and other areas of the humanities at Wayne State University. In 1967, the outbreak of the Six-Day War in the Middle East led to a resurfacing of Covensky's feelings about her experiences in World War II. She had family living in Israel, and the fears of loss that she remembered from more than twenty years earlier came back in force. She felt that she had to express her emotions through some artistic medium, and with the encouragement of her husband, Milton; and a close friend, she began to paint.
The exhibition "Paintings by Helen Ciesla Covensky" surveys the work of an artist who began painting in the 1960's and whose mature work, like that of many of the finest artists in Michigan today, dates from the 1970's. Her paintings give increased depth and richness to our state's growing artistic tradition, and I am gratified that they are being shown here. I would like to convey my warm appreciation to everyone who has encouraged Helen Covensky in the pursit of art and who has assisted in this exhibition.
The artist's husband, Milton Covensky; her brother, David; and her children, Aviva and Jonathan; have been deeply supportive of her efforts. Jay Belloli, Curator of Modern Art, initiated the show and has overseen every phase of its development. Marlene E. Gordon, Research Assistant, Department of Modern Art, has been helpful in many aspects of the exhibition. I would like to thank the Founders Society Detroit Institute of Arts for providing the funds necessary for this project. I must also acknowledge the generous contribution of an anonymous donor to the production of the catalogue. Finally, I wish to convey my warm appreciation to Helen Covensky. Her paintings and complete dedication to her work merit our sincere admiration.
Frederick J. Cummings
Director of Detroit Institute of Art