A huge crowd greeted Canton Street resident Jean Gibran, author of Love Made Visible, in which she recounts her 50-year marriage to internationally known sculptor Kahlil Gibran. It was hot in the library's community room because the air-conditioning did not work. And Gibran forgot her reading glasses. But after several pairs were offered from the audience, the show could begin.
Gibran explained that she wrote the book after her husband's death in 2008 for at least two reasons: To let those who had lost spouses know they could still do things and continue to be part of the community. The other was to draw attention to the Boston Expressionists who thrived here in the 1930s and 40s, and whose muse, Karl Zerbe, taught at the Museum School where her husband studied as well. Gibran said these Bostonians influenced the New York-based Abstract Expressionist movement, including artists like Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning. "It started right here, at the Museum School," Gibran told her audience. She encouraged everyone to visit the Danforth Art Museum in Natick, which currently has a retrospective on the subject, called The Expressive Voice: Brought to Light.
Woven throughout the Gibran story as well is her compassion for and interest in the Middle Eastern communities her husband was part of, and the enclaves of Arab culture that once existed in the South End, Bay Village and part of what now is Chinatown. In a poignant description, she delves into the ethnic slurs and professional insults Gibran endured, as well as some of the brutal history that forced his parents and relatives to flee the Middle East. She learned to cook some of the dishes Gibran favored, shared many meals with family and friends in local Middle Eastern restaurants, and came to love the sounds of the Arab language and its music.
Kahlil Gibran, winner of numerous awards and prestigious fellowships, was nicknamed 'Golden Hands.' He made his living restoring art, antiques and musical instruments, while he did his art work at night in his studio at Fayette Street, and later in the townhouse they Gibrans purchased on West Canton Street. For a number of years, the Gibrans owned a gallery on Newbury Street but, eventually, she returned to teaching third grade and he to his art and craft. Gibran refers to husband, Kahlil Gibran, the sculptor, as "K," to distinguish him from his older cousin by the same name, the author who emigrated to Boston from Ottoman Syria in 1895, and who wrote the renowned 1923 prose poetry collection The Prophet.
Love Made Visible is available from Barnes and Noble booksellers, and contains a lengthy and informative section profiling many participants in the Boston Expressionist movement, as well as detailed lists and illustrations of Kahlil Gibran's artistic and professional legacy. It is also available for borrowing from the BPL.