Sculptor Mico Kaufman, 92, who was widely known for his bronze statues and coins but who also dabbled with extruded polyethylene works, died Dec. 12 at Lowell General Hospital after a brief illness.
Kaufman, of Tewksbury, Mass., was born in Romania, spent time in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, and came to America in 1951. He was educated in Italy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and also in Florence.
He was commissioned to do presidential and vice presidential inaugural medals for Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as for celebrities like Michael Jackson, Arnold Palmer and Dwight Eisenhower. He also did busts of Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, Wang Laboratories Inc. founder An Wang and U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas.
Kaufman did monuments locally in Massachusetts as well as in Europe. He had his work exhibited in Finland, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Italy and Sweden.
His works are in the permanent collection of the New York and Colorado Springs museums of the American Numismatic Society, the British Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
This year he published a book chronicling his life titled, “A Chiseler's True Story: The Art of Mico Kaufman.”
Kaufman liked to try different mediums and materials, and during the late 1980s, he fashioned many works of art through the use of an extruder in the plastics engineering program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
“He was searching for a new medium,” said retired UML professor Bob Malloy, who noted that Kaufman worked with a student who ran the extruder.
He noted that Nick Schott, former head of the plastics department at UML, said at the time that “Mico had to be instantaneously creative because he had only on the order of maybe 30 seconds to form the material into the shape he was going for.”
Malloy said that blow mold grade high density PE was the material of choice because of its melt strength and that Kaufman would use a heat gun or blow torch to further shape it.
He said that during engineering week at UML each year in February, they do have plastics arts sculptor contest where “students can do what Mico did and make what they want to make. We use different people to judge so we still carry on the tradition,”
Kaufman is survived by his companion Elsie Howell, and three children, Adele Morris of Maryland, Arthur Kaufman of R.I. and Emile Kaufman of Dracut.
Funeral services were private.