Proving Her Metal

Dalya Luttwak in her studio.

Photo: Sanjay Suchak

Dalya Luttwak’s life has been a journey of pulling up and putting down roots. As World War II started its sweep across Europe, Luttwak’s parents escaped Czechoslovakia and replanted themselves in Israel.

She studied art history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and then metal art at Montgomery College. Professor Komelia Okim mentored her from 1976 through 1980.

“I learned from Komelia to work meticulously and never, never compromise on design,” says Luttwak. “I carried this with me when my jewelry and hollowware grew into large sculptures. I am forever thankful to Komelia for being a demanding teacher.”

Today, Luttwak’s large metal root sculptures are featured in an outdoor installation at the Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC. The exhibit, “When Nature Takes Over,” runs through July 2013.

Luttwak, who lives and works in Chevy Chase, says that when the Kreeger selected her to create a site-specific sculpture on its grounds, she was immediately drawn to the tennis court. The court, surrounded by five-and-a-half acres and an exquisite building designed by architect Phillip Johnson, exemplified the Kreegers’ former lifestyle until the museum opened in 1994.

A small metal yellow root sculpture on the cracked floor.

A metal yellow root sculpture at The Kreeger Museum. Photo by Greg Staley.

Throughout years of non-use, the floor cracked, the poles for the net rusted, and roots and vines of ivy, wisteria, and honeysuckle slowly covered the metal fence. The gardeners over time tried to get rid of those weeds but to no avail—they grew into the fence and could not be separated. This situation offered Luttwak the opportunity to take advantage of the “broken roots” of the tennis court.

“My intention is to give importance, with my installation, to these remnants of roots and vines that could not be removed, by painting them bright red and adding some painted steel ‘roots’ sculptures. I concentrated my attention on what there was and was no longer there—When Nature Takes Over.”

To see more of Luttwak’s sculptures online, visit

Putting Down Roots All Over Town

Luttwak has exhibited in dozens of museums and galleries around the world and across the nation. A solo exhibition of her work will be on display this year at the Museo Guttuso in Sicily, Italy. Closer to home, you can view her metal roots snaking up the entranceway at VisArts on Gibbs Street in Rockville Town Square, and on the steps of the Jewish Community Center on 16th Street, NW, in Washington, DC.

When Nature Takes Over

When Nature Takes Over, 2011, The Kreeger Museum; Photo by Greg Staley

Tabernacle of Peace

Sukkat Shalom/Tabernacle of Peace, 2012, The Washington DC Jewish Community Center; Photo by Sanjay Suchak

White metal roots snake up the entranceway at VisArts on Gibbs Street in Rockville Town Square.

White metal roots snake up the entranceway at VisArts on Gibbs Street in Rockville Town Square. Photos by Sanjay Suchak.

—Tina Kramer

This article first appeared in the fall 2012 issue of Insights.

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