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Edward Lazansky

Self-portrait, Paris, 1960

Edward Lazansky, 91, passed away peacefully with his loved ones around him on March 5, 2022 at his home in Woodstock, NY.

Ed was born in Brooklyn in 1930, to Jeanette Burros and Charles Lazansky. He went to the High School of Music and Art in New York, Syracuse University, and Oberlin College for his MA in fine arts, after which he was sent to Munich for his Army service.

When his colonel realized Ed’s talents, he appointed him “Regimental Artist.” Ed then studied painting with Edwin Dickinson at the Art Students League in New York. A scholarship to the École des Beaux-Arts took him to Paris in 1960, where he also began a doctorate with André Chastel at the Sorbonne, and immersed himself in the museums, the opera, the Cinemathèque, and of course the food. He lived next to the Brancusi studio and across from Niki de Saint Phalle in the Impasse Ronsin, one of the Parisian “cités d’artistes.”

Back in New York, Ed became involved in the avant-garde theater scene, and over the years designed sets for the Living Theatre, Theater for the New City, and most especially, the Judson Poets’ Theater. He was a proud union man, and as a member of Local 829 United Scenic Artists, he worked on sets for the New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, Saturday Night Live, and many feature films.

In 1963, Ed was drawn to Woodstock, and the summer campus of the Art Students League (now the Woodstock School of Art). He split his time between his apartment in New York City on the Lower East Side and his home in the Maverick Art Colony where he continued to paint, and design his garden. His deep interest in geology took him on hikes in the local mountains and hunting for fossils, and also led him to explore the West, where the Grand Canyon became the inspiration for a series of paintings.

From 1967 to 2012, Ed was on the faculty at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he taught many subjects, from drawing to art history, but especially the class Light, Color, and Design. If it is possible to know “everything” about color, he did. He was an unforgettably erudite teacher and would hear from former students how his innovative “projects” and sensitive critiques had influenced their lives and careers. He was forever trying to expand their ways of seeing, and had come back from Paris with a love for the French poster, which became one of his unique design-teaching projects.

Classical music was one of Ed’s passions. He avidly sought out concerts his whole life. He started collecting albums when he was 12. He and a couple of like-minded friends would rush to the music store to listen to the latest Tchaikovsky recording in the listening booth, and then pool their money to buy it. He played basic piano, taught himself violin at age 80, and built several harpsichords from scratch. But, most meaningfully, he engaged in “deep listening”—a total immersion in the music, feeling it with eyes closed and arms sometimes outstretched as if conducting. Just a walk away through the woods was the Maverick Concert Hall, where every summer he would enjoy acoustic chamber music. Later, when he couldn’t get to the concert, he would fill his house with music and sit on his deck listening and watching the chickadees.

Ed was something of a Renaissance man and knew how to bring together his passion for history, art history, nature, geology, design, and music in interesting and surprising ways that he loved to share with others; his near and dear ones say that he passed along to them this love of knowledge. He was a friendly, gentle man who met people where they were and could engage anyone in conversation on just about any topic.

Ed leaves behind his daughter Nadja Lazansky, his granddaughter Rachel Lazansky and her husband Bhanu Abeysekera; his friend and ex Phyllis Tower; his adopted daughter Lily McAllen, her husband Eric Brown, and their little son Cameron; as well as numerous nephews, nieces, and good friends.

For their constant support, the family will be forever grateful to Ed’s loving carers Dominique Niklaus and Sue Dougherty, to his faithful friend Christine Martin, to Raina Kattelson and Bob Butscher, Beth Ngokwey, Mary Ball, the Gran family, and to all our kind-hearted Maverick neighbor-friends.

There will be a gathering in Ed’s memory later in the Spring. Donations in his name may be made to Ed’s beloved Maverick Concerts (maverickconcerts.org).

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