By senior year, having exhausted the high school’s art curriculum, she received special permission to commute daily to afternoon classes at the League, then earned admission as a Sculpture major to highly competitive Cooper Union College of Fine Arts.
There, she focused exclusively on sculpture and drawing, and her signature work was abstract. At graduation in 1975, Cooper Union presented the Alumni Sculpture Award to Grebow for her exceptional achievement.
Meanwhile, Grebow was finding that painted forms, art in public places and art with a useful purpose all appealed to her. She admired the fusion of painting, sculpture and architecture in the European Middle Ages and the sculptor-architects of Italy’s early Renaissance and Baroque eras, especially Ghiberti, Michelangelo and Bernini.
She developed an interest in painting, calligraphy and the use of art to illuminate complex ideas in ways that the public could readily understand. By her own account, she found the educational dioramas at New York’s Museum of Natural History as compelling as the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Between 1975 and 1984, she continued to produce and exhibit sculpture; meanwhile, beginning in 1976, to ensure steady income, she established a side business, designing and manufacturing custom porcelain dinnerware and Judaica, including Passover plates, menorahs and mezuzahs.
By 1986, married now and a mother, she found that demand for her products was so great that it precluded attention either to serious sculpture or her children, so she closed the business.
Instead, in 1987, she began sculpting and painting custom ceramic tiles for fine homes in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Westchester County, New York, and New York City.
This work caught the attention of philanthropist Erica Jesselson, who was searching for a way to showcase donors at Manhattan’s 92nd Street YMHA, where her grandchildren were members. Grebow’s custom tiles provided a solution.
This resulting project’s success led quickly to an invitation to design and produce a donor tile mural at nearby Temple Emanu El. The theme for Grebow’s first commission there was “life on Fifth Avenue through the eyes of a child.”
Subsequent mural themes include “animals from around the world” and “children’s games and pastimes,”. As evident in this work, Grebow, the sculptor and ceramist, had also mastered painting and calligraphy. Word of her ability to meld art, fundraising and public education for worthwhile causes began to spread.
More donor tile commissions followed, including ones for a community nursery school in New Canaan, and then, for the Westport Public Library, where the “River of Names” became her first historical mural.
Since 1998, the popular, artistic and financial success of these projects has prompted strong interest in her work. Her mural for the Connecticut Audubon Center in Fairfield portrays the four seasons in the Connecticut woodlands. For the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook and for SoundWaters in Stamford, she again chronicles the history of Connecticut towns.
For New York’s Diller-Quaile School of Music, she features musical instruments and scores. In two 23-foot murals at Brooklyn’s Jewish Community House of Benshonhurst, Grebow assembles a colorful scrapbook, an animated pictorial celebration of nineteenth and twentieth century neighborhood life, including memories of Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Marion maintained her studio in her West Redding farmhouse. She is survived by her husband, Gustav Olsen, and their two sons, Sam and Harald.
Click HERE for a look at the Westport Library “River of Names” before it was removed for the transformation project.