A barn turned workshop and toy box, a collection of gliders from the 1940s, a shower mosaic based on Matisse’s The Dance, a seventeen-year-old cat named Mouse. This is the home of South Carolina artists, Lee Malerich and Glenn Saborosch. The two have been together for four years, both of them having grown up in the Midwest before ending up in the Palmetto State. Malerich and Saborosch have an interesting back story since they both went to the same high school, dated temporarily in college, and then went on to live separate lives, marry other people, and have successful art careers before meeting again years later. They found each other through their art; Saborosch, widowed, found an online profile for Malerich, then divorced, and they began a letter correspondence. Months later, they met in person in an art show in Iowa. Both recount with amazement how – even later in life – a second chance at romance turned them into twenty-somethings in love. They got married in Rome in 2009, “and not Rome, Georgia,” Malerich clarifies, laughing. They now live in Neeses, with Saborosch’s son Garrett, their cat Mouse, and a collection of art as dynamic as the couple who created it. Though they share a love for the arts and sweet green tea, their styles, the mediums they use, and the stories behind their art are unique.
For most of Malerich’s artistic career, she has been in textiles. She learned sewing out of necessity when she was young, but loved the process. When she discovered that she could use the beauty in fabrics and thread for more than just clothes – for art – Malerich was hooked. The Midwestern grown artist received two studio art degrees from Northern Illinois University before moving to South Carolina to teach. In NIU she met Renie Breskin Adams, who Malerich says inspired many of her views regarding textiles. Adams, a professor teaching in NIU, had graduated from Indiana University with a group Malerich describes as treating a “stitch as a brushstroke.” Their cloth and thread was their art, not merely their craft, a frustrating limitation often applied to textiles. Malerich also recalls that Adam’s work was “overwhelmingly personal,” a characteristic inherent in Malerich’s textiles as well.
Holding one of her older pieces, Malerich points to one image – a person with cancer scars curled up in a circle – created by the stitching over a background of fabric, saying, “Well, it’s me.” The majority of the images in her textile works are beautiful, intricate representations of herself. However, Malerich says she is moving away from this vulnerability in her art. In fact, she is moving away from her previous style in many ways. Her newer work is not only less vulnerable; it is also fabric-less. Malerich has branched into three-dimensional art alongside Saborosch; her medium, window frames.
Her first ventures into windows are tile mosaics in simple wooden frames, with an amount of detail similar to her textiles. She explains that her prior motto had been to “build in as much detail as possible” before the piece “falls apart,” but now she is more interested in “thinly orchestrated” and simple patterns. Her most recent window frames have empty spaces, pieces of the glass panes leftover without obstructing the view of what’s through the window. The frames are often stacked on top of each other, giving a surprising depth to the thin wooden beams. Attached objects range from metal coils to seashells to painted faces, all materials that incorporate her love of the flea market into her art. Beyond living frugally, her chosen materials help convey meaning in her work; Malerich believes her art should always hold meaning or express an emotion. Ceramic figurines of red cardinals, the Illinois state bird, rest on a window frame piece she is working on now, a tribute to the place where both Malerich and Saborosch were raised.
Like Malerich, Saborosch also discovered his medium at a young age, learning to weld in a high school sculpture class and loving it. He studied for two years at Lindenwood University in St. Charles Missouri, though he says he struggled in school while he excelled in art. After receiving a critique in a show that he focus on one genre, he decided to dedicate his time to sculpture, specifically metal work. Saborosch ended up taking a twenty-year hiatus from sculpting due to family and his work; Saborosch was a truck driver. However, he would not be kept away forever, and had started entering shows again before he and Malerich reunited.
Malerich calls Saborosch’s style “describing masses out of lines.” Steel strips and wire form animals, people, scenes frozen in time. In one sculpture, a ballerina bends her head back, leg lifted, hands crossed in front of her. Saborosch notes how expressive hands are in a sculpture that lacks a face. Another sculpture, a leaping runner, is harder to identify at first glance, but the motion created by a few simple lines of metal is easily apparent.
Recently, though, Saborosch has also found his style changing. His newer pieces are abstract, and his materials now include spare agricultural tools. Rather than plan ahead what shape the pieces will take, as he did with his representative work, Saborosch says he “plays” with the newer pieces, letting them take on a form of their own. He stops “if it starts to look like an animal,” he asserts. He wants the pieces to be abstract. Unlike Malerich, Glen doesn’t set out with a message or emotion in mind. He creates art for the aesthetic of the shape, whether in a steel representation of a leaping horse or an abstract sculpture made from tractor parts.
Both Malerich and Saborosch are quick to add that the materials chosen his more recent works do not have any bearing on the interpretation of the pieces. The repurposed tractor parts aren’t meant to be recognized as repurposed tractor parts; the positive and negative spaces they create are what speak for the piece. His use of thrown out agricultural equipment is perhaps just another way that Malerich’s love of reusing waste has rubbed off on him.
The couple agrees that both their work changed after they got married. Through the changes in their styles, mediums, and personal views on art, Malerich says living together is a of “moving toward the middle.” They celebrate the different art styles and skills each brings to the table. Malerich proudly calls Glen “the real deal” when it comes to artistic talent, while she is the one with more experience and formal training. They help each other through these strengths; Malerich writes Saborosch’s bios and Saborosch helps Malerich if one of her newer projects requires a special tool or heavy lifting. While Malerich does exclaim, “It’s not fair!” regarding needing Saborosch’s help with her own pieces, both artists appreciate living with another artistic mind. Saborosch says it’s nice having someone there to critique one’s work and provide ideas.
When asked if they ever collaborate on projects, there is some minor discussion and laughter. In short, no, they work separately. Saborosch says, “We’re in our own little worlds together,” Malerich adding that their work is like “parallel play.” They feed off of each other – inspiring, advising, learning – without crossing the line into the other’s art pieces. Both of them, however, seem happiest when discussing their significant other’s work. They are quick to praise, describe, and enthuse over the other’s art. Malerich encourages Saborosch to talk about his Cinderella sculpture, a success he takes much pride in. This piece was commissioned by Disney and is currently on display in Disney World in Tokyo, part of a series of “story beats” telling the Cinderella story though different art genres.
However, both artists are finding it difficult to show and sell their newer work. They sell from their home rather than any one established place, and have had some of their newer pieces rejected from art shows. Saborosch says that he may return to figure work to see if that sells better, but both Malerich and Saborosch are not worried about the situation. The couple is retired and don’t need to work to live comfortably. Malerich says coming to a place where you no longer need money is an interesting experience, leading her to question her motives for her art. She wants to continue to create art that makes her happy, regardless of how it is accepted.
Malerich is a part of the group, Cats on a Leash, artists who have been together for over thirty years and show periodically. Beyond that, Malerich and Saborosch will be selling and doing commissions from their Neeses home. She discusses and displays both of their artworks, as well as her love of living “on the cheap,” in her blog “Waste as a Way of Life.”
Malerich may also be showing this fall, though nothing is set in stone yet, in the Pickens County Museum exhibit “Fiber Art: Connecting Concept and Medium,” which will run from September 7 through November 14.
-- Joanna Savold, Jasper intern