Toby Klein to exhibit at Bluff Park

By Karen Weinrib

Deep South Jewish Voice

As a young woman, Toby Klein never would have dreamed that one day she would be preparing for the Artexpo New York 2005 at the Jacob K. Javitz Center. Although in high school she made pen and ink drawings, painted watercolors, and took classes, Klein never formally studied art until she began taking watercolor classes in the early 1990s. In 1992, a friend encouraged her to enter her first art show, that of the Mountain Brook Art Association. Klein has immersed herself in art ever since.

Describing herself as an “experimental artist [who] sees something new and has to try it,” Klein currently specializes in mixed media and collages. At one time or another, she has used watercolors, inks, acrylics, hand-dyed papers, and found objects like copper, brass, wire, aluminum flat sheets, and clock, watch, and computer parts; she particularly is interested in glass at the moment.

As Klein explains, “I find art in almost everything I see.” She constantly looks at magazines, objects in the street, items at hardware stores, and images from everyday life as inspiration for her work, although some of it “just pops in my head,” she says. In the future, she would like to go to garage sales to find future artistic materials and ideas.

Klein’s art is very contemporary and colorful. “My art is mainly nonobjective and abstract,” she explains, but “it does have some realism in it. I may leave something in a very abstract state [or] may work it into realism, whatever I see in the piece.”

One example of this type of work is her current Puzzle series. For one of these pieces, Klein creates a painting using layers of acrylic, watercolor, and ink, then “works in the negative” with watercolors and water-soluble crayons; upon this work, she draws puzzle pieces, cuts out selected ones, and places them at different heights and angles to create a collage.

As evidenced by the Puzzle collection, Klein enjoys working on a series. Her collages of four-ply painted rag board strips that her husband jokingly refers to as her “stick series” are very popular, as are her Judaica. She particularly likes working on her Wall series, which are inspired by the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Klein’s object with her artwork is to be different “and to draw the viewer into the work… to look at the intricate parts. I try to make where it’s so interesting that people, if they come in and look, are mesmerized by the different things in each piece.” She uses detailed subject matter, intricacies, and technique to pull people into her art. Collaging is not just “cutting a piece of paper,” she explains. “It’s a lot of thought process how I lay things out.”

Klein is very active in the local arts community, as the current president of the Watercolor Society of Alabama and a current or past member of the Mountain Brook and Vestavia art associations, among others. She has exhibited her work at several Birmingham area shows such as those as Bluff Park and Linn Park; furthermore, she has had booths at shows throughout Georgia and the Florida Panhandle and in Chattanooga, Covington, La., Mobile, Huntsville, and Fairhope.

Klein is very fond of going to shows in the Southeast because she can see all the artists she has seen for years. However, she currently is shifting her focus toward fewer shows and more galleries; she now has pieces at galleries in Memphis and in Florida.

Klein’s awards are too numerous to list in their entirety, a sign of critical acclaim by her fellow artists. Amongst her juried awards are the 2000 Medal of Honor Award from the National Association of Women Artists in New York, both the 2003 Past Presidents Award and four Experimental Artist of Alabama Awards from the Watercolor Society of Alabama, and numerous 1st Place, 2nd place, and other awards from the Experimental Artist of Alabama exhibition. Her works have also been shown in national publications such as “Watercolor.” Additionally, her works are in private collections throughout Europe and the United States, and in many permanent collections such as those at Alabama Power, Compass Bank, and Children’s Hospital of Alabama.

Klein takes delight in having developed her own style of mixed media, considering that she has only been involved in the art world for about 15 years. She has always been attracted to the unusual and wanted her work to be unique. Her favorite compliment occurs “when somebody comes up [at an art show] and says your work is really different than anything we’ve seen here.”

More information: