Michele Corbman, 66, who has lived in Chestnut Hill for nine years, has mastered several creative disciplines. At first the pandemic did not have the corrosive effect on her artistic endeavors that it had on so many others.
Michele Corbman, 66, who has lived in Chestnut Hill for nine years, has mastered several creative disciplines, among them ballet dancer, jewelry maker, leather handbag maker, buyer for Bloomingdale’s in New York City, painter and professional photographer. At first the pandemic did not have the corrosive effect on her artistic endeavors that it had on so many others.
“I was painting feverishly at the beginning,” she said last week, “and was thrilled to have carved out time in my life to do it. There was no photography work at all; everything was shut down. I felt compelled to make good use of this shut-in time. It was very fulfilling, but after several months of painting every day, it started to feel like work. The news was so depressing; life felt so 'shut down' that it started to crush my spirit. To get out of the house, I continued to take equestrian lessons, which kept me moving outside all through the summer and fall. That was my juice to connect with joy.”
Last November, however, life took a painful turn as Corbman suffered a terrible fall from a horse on the hard ground, which prevented her from walking for months, followed by months of physical therapy. “I am on the mend now and feel grateful that I am recovering,” she said.
Corbman, who said the two hardest things she ever had to do in life were watching her mother die at an early age (50) and recovering from the recent equestrian accident, once started her own hair accessory business in California, selling them on Venice Beach while on roller skates. That business grew all over southern California, her most famous client being Fiorucci in Beverly Hills, a major Italian fashion label. Michele moved back east, though, when her mother became very ill. In this area she became a self-employed sales representative of high-end accessories, traveling throughout five states and selling them to department stores and museums, including The Smithsonian.
“After 15 years on the road, though,” she said, “I missed my life as an artist, so I quit my company and took one year off, cultivating my artistic endeavors. I spent two months traveling in Europe, drawing my way through France and Italy. Returning home and inspired by Antoni Gaudi [legendary Spanish architect] in Barcelona, I spent the next year making ceramics and mosaics, selling them locally at art shows.”
Corbman started painting the masters, starting with Matisse, on shells 35 years ago at the beach. Her first painting on canvas, “Portrait of Marie Therese,” was done 26 years ago. “When I needed money about 16 years ago, a gallery owner friend of mine, said, 'Sell your Picasso.' I said, 'But who would buy my painting?' He then put it in his window, and it sold for $1500!”
Early in life Corbman aspired to become a professional ballet dancer, and although that hope was not fulfilled, “14 years of classes gave me an amazing foundation in life — discipline, striving for perfection, pushing through difficulties.” When asked which creative discipline was her favorite, she replied, “Each medium gives me a different satisfaction in the process but such gratification in the completion. And in almost each project, I am often surprised with the result. When I am in it, it's almost like a possession of sorts, and I wake up when it's done and feel surprised! Even after so many years.”
Corbman, who grew up on the Main Line, attending Lower Merion High School, graduated from Adelphi College on Long Island with a degree in business and marketing, has yet another new artistic skill — garage door painter. She was recently hired by a neighbor who had just bought her house “and wanted to make her mark with her new home. She picked out the design. It's a white peacock on a dark background. Very stark, like a lithograph print. Definitely a challenge on an old garage door with 75 years of old paint on it! I'm about 60 percent done.”
When asked if there were any family members Corbman wanted to mention, she replied, “I come from a very non-creative family. I was the black sheep from an early age. They didn't know what to do with me while I was dancing around the living room and playing the piano. It was always something, and they just shook their heads. And they still do.”
For more information, visit michelecorbman.com. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com