Lou Zeldis, In Memoriam

Upon entering the Threads of Life gallery, and looking to the left, a strikingly modern batik is usually hanging full-length on the far wall. Made in the traditional natural-dye colors of central Java by the artisans at a batik studio in the city of Solo, the designs being employed have taken tradition and spun it on its head! The force behind all this creativity, intended to keep a traditional batik studio going in between orders from the Surakarta palace’s royal family, was Lou Zeldis, an American artist of exceptional talent and a human of unusual kindness.

Lou loved playing with the intersection of circles and lines: starbursts were a motif he often explored. And he liked expressing the ordinary in thought provoking ways: a field of black-and-white checks, but with one white square missing somewhere, so that you only noticed it the third or fourth time you looked at the cloth. A series of pieces I admired (as a mathematics graduate) was his Pi works. Starting in the top left corner in tightly spaced but neat rows, the decimal numerals for the esoteric number Pi filled the cloth: 3.14159265358979323846… You get the idea. And Lou would check the work for the batik artists’ cellphone numbers, suspecting them of including the kind of visual surprise he so loved. At the foot of each cloth in the curling traditional script of Java, the names of all the batik artists were listed, followed by Lou’s name and the year. He always gave credit where credit was due.

Lou died of cancer earlier this month. His zest for life, his generosity, and his way of making you see the beauty in things you’d never noticed before, will all be sadly missed.

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9 thoughts on “Lou Zeldis, In Memoriam

  1. Thank you so much for memorializing Lou. It was my pleasure to know him & I wish him peace on his journey.

  2. Lou was a high school classmate, and I am thankful to see this information about his life.

  3. I’m crushed to have just learned of his death here. The last time we spoke, Lou had assured me that the cancer was well in control and that he was contemplating his return from LA to Bali.

    Lou was extremely talented in multiple facets. As a young man, he traveled with the tour of Hello Dolly! with Mary Martin. It was he who taught Martin how to sing a verse of her song in Japanese for her local audience in Tokyo. He also played a significant role in the LaMama Experimental Theater project on 7th (6th?) Street in NYC. He dressed in strange and wonderful garb that only he could pull off. And his lion mane of blond hair was his signature.

    But mostly, he was an incredible friend with a huge heart. I’m really sad.

    • Sorry to be the bearer of sad news. I only knew him in Bali and it sounds as if his dress sense never changed: he was always festooned with necklaces here!

      His heart touched all those who knew him and remains with us all still.

      • I am thankful for your website, in spite of the sad news it carried. Otherwise I might have never known what happened. Thank you, threadsoflifebali.

  4. I never heard of Lou Zeldis until recently, I have one of his hand-made silver necklaces, with a shell. It is amazing, it is so strange how it came to me. It really has a good, powerful, energy – I feel lucky to have it!!

  5. I am so sad to just read this news about Lou. He used to visit our friend Helen Buttfield in NY.
    Thanks for posting this. I will wear his creations and think of him fondly…

  6. I knew Lou in the summer of 1971, when he was doing Orghast at Persepolis in Iran with Peter Brook. A lovely spirit-man, who touched many…

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