California Exhibition Pairs Actress Gigi Rice and Auschwitz Survivor Sidi Gluck
Two Ohio State alumnae are coming together this summer for an art exhibition in Southern California. One is Gigi Rice — actress, artist, gallery owner. The other is Sidi Gluck — painter, art teacher, Auschwitz survivor.
Rice’s gallery, the Alice Rice Gallery in Laguna Beach, will host an exhibition of Gluck’s rarely seen paintings in the June 25 to Aug. 22 exhibition “Sidi Grunstein Gluck: Remember…”. The show will feature dozens of Gluck’s post-Holocaust oils and prints in an unforgettable series of colorful and revealing abstracts. The show’s title draws from her physician father’s final words spoken to her en route to Auschwitz in 1944: “Remember … nobody can take away what is in your head.”
Gluck’s story starts in Czechoslovakia, where she was born in 1922 and grew up in a well-off family living near the border of Hungary. As the war began to rage, her older brother fled to a safe house, while the rest of her family was sent to Auschwitz.
“Sidi told me when she was a little girl, a palm reader visited their home and told her she was going to live a very long life,” Rice said. “In Auschwitz, Sidi was pulled from the (execution) line at the very last minute. She knew then that she would survive.”
Though the rest of her family perished at the hands of the Nazis, Gluck relocated to the U.S. and settled in Columbus, where she enrolled at Ohio State and earned a bachelor’s degree in art education, studying painting and graphics with well-known artists Hoyt L. Sherman and Sidney Chafetz.
She went on to earn both an MA and MFA from Ohio State, and taught art in Columbus Public Schools until 1972, when she moved to Southern California. There, she taught art in inner-city Los Angeles schools for more than two decades.
“Sidi calls herself a ‘colorist’ — her art is abstract and full of bright colors,” Rice explained. “I think when people visit the gallery and see her paintings, she wants them to be struck not by her story but by the colors. Color to her means survival. Her girlhood home was surrounded by colorful gardens, and it was those memories that kept her going.”
One of the paintings in the show is called “The March” and shows a long line of women with a rainbow of colors washing over them, a piece that Rice calls profound. Another large abstract, “The Liberation,” is filled with strong brushstrokes and bold hues.
Rice said she is “thrilled” that Gluck, who will be 94 in July, will attend the show’s opening reception. “She’s very humble and even a little shy,” Rice said. “But she’s agreed to come at least for a couple of hours.”
“I am so honored to be showcasing Sidi’s amazing artwork,” said Rice. “Collaborating with Sidi for this exhibition represents the beauty of what Ohio State is. It’s a place where you meet so many people, who are all contributing to make the world a better place. Ohio State is where you get such an amazing foundation to go out and make a huge difference in the world.”
Rice grew up in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, and graduated with a degree in musical theatre — a degree that at the time combined studies in theatre, music and dance. She landed an immediate role as an apprentice in Burt Reynolds’ Jupiter Theatre in Florida, and said, “I didn’t even go to commencement ... I had to start working right away.”
She eventually moved to Southern California and went on to star in myriad television series including The John Laroquette Show, Will and Grace, Frasier and Army Wives.
“In Army Wives, I played the part of a grandma. I was 42 at the time,” she said. “I decided I needed to start doing something else in addition to acting. So I started to paint.”
While taking painting classes, Rice met fellow artist Alice Hernandez-Gaona, and the two soon decided to open a gallery together. “We didn’t really know what we were doing, we just sort of did it,” Rice says of the Laguna Beach gallery they opened in 2014. “It just goes to show you what you can do if you put your mind to it.”
Rice was recently named a member of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Advisory Committee. She and her husband, actor Ted McGinley, live in Pacific Palisades, California, and are currently starring as a husband and wife in the CW comedy No Tomorrow.