Renowned local artist Mauricio Lasansky dies at 97


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University of Iowa Professor Virginia Myers worked with Mauricio Lasansky for many years — in fact, he was the reason why she decided to study at Iowa.

"He was one of the greatest people in my life," she said. "He had finished his work here. The people whose lives he touched, we don't forget it."

Lasansky, a famed printmaker and former head of the UI printing program, died on Monday of natural causes in his Iowa City home at the age of 97.

He is remembered by those who knew him as a visionary in his field, as an incredible teacher, and, above all, an artist.

Born in Buenos Airies in 1914, Lasansky first visited the United States after winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in New York City to study the print collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He continued to live with his family in the city after being awarded the fellowship a second time until officials at the University of Iowa invited him to be a professor in 1945.

"He was a very talented person with an enormous future potential, and [the UI] wanted to start a printmaking program," said former UI President Willard "Sandy" Boyd.

Lasansky started to slowly transform the graphics department — formerly led by acclaimed artist Grant Wood — into a printmaking program. He remained in this position until 1985, creating the often No. 1 ranked printmaking program in the country.

"He and his students were always pushing the envelope of what could happen with print," said Phillip Lasansky, who is one of the printmaker's six children. "His students or students of his students were teaching in higher education across the country."

During the 1960s, he created his most famous project, The Nazi Drawings, a series of 30 drawings in a triptych that he worked on for nearly seven years. The series depicted the tragedies of Nazi Germany.

"One thing Dad always said is that it's not 'Jewish' art but rather art he composed in essence to make sure the world knows how man can brutalize man and to not forget what man did to man during the Holocaust," Phillip Lasansky said.

UI printmaking Associate Professor Anita Jung said Lasansky created new printmaking dialogue that took part on a national stage. His work has been displayed in hundreds of museums internationally.

"He was really one of the artists that was extremely experimental," Jung said. "He was a passionate artist and had incredible discipline. He made art every day of his life."

Jung said besides being a committed artist, Lasansky was able to influence many through teaching.

"I've worked with fourth generation Lasansky students, and I've worked with first generation Lasansky students," she said. "He's created a legacy of making print."

Myers grew as an artist under Laskansky's teaching.

"I don't forget the legacy he left me, but I was just one person," she said. "He helped many."

Phillip Lasansky said his father enjoyed both being a teacher and being a professional artist.

"He was a very successful artist, and yet at the same time, was a very successful educator," he said.

Many of his children went on to explore different aspects of the fine arts. And after retiring in 1985, Lasansky dedicated his time to making art.

"Dad squeezed every ounce of life out of him," Phillip Lasansky said.

And at the university, Lasansky will be remembered through his artwork and the progress he made in the field of printmaking.

"He brought great distinction to the UI," Boyd said. "And his influence was nationwide, in terms of his art and teaching."

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