Nelly Katzman


Nelly Katzman died on March 9, 2023, at the age of 24. 

Nelly was an artist. She grew up in a household of artists and makers, and in an environment of handmade things. From a young age, she developed an artistic vision that was unique and authentic to her, while embodying a deep sensitivity, empathy, and concern for others.

Nelly was born on July 29, 1998, at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to Cindy Kane and Doron Katzman, and big sister Tova Katzman. Nelly attended the Tisbury School and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, where she was surrounded by a close group of friends. A top student, she was often praised for her creativity, sense of humor, style, and independent thinking. 

She traveled frequently with her family to Israel to visit her relatives. Nelly’s grandfather, her Saba, was a survivor of the Holocaust, and even as a young child, she would ask him many questions to try to understand what it was. This questioning of the world and its complexity was typical for Nelly. She had a fierce intelligence, and while shy around people she didn’t know, her close friends and family delighted and astounded in the depth of her thinking and quick wit.

Nelly was her own person, and valued authenticity in others. It was impossible to have small talk with her. You might start out thinking that is what you were doing, but end up in a conversation that would shift the way you see the world. She was a force of nature: shy, enigmatic, and brilliant. She had great comic timing, and was a talented mimic. Tall and glowing, she had a unique sense of style that combined the vintage with the contemporary. 

After graduating from high school in 2016, Nelly did a gap year program in Israel, and lived in the cultural centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. During that time, she traveled to Berlin and China, and walked along the Great Wall of China. When she returned from Israel, she attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where she studied film, art history, and painting. 

Nelly took her art very seriously, and at the same time was modest about it. She wasn’t striving for her work to be seen and exhibited, and was very critical of the commodification of art. For Nelly, her artwork was about expressing her own vision. She would take long walks on the beach, where she collected seashells that she made into beautiful earrings and incorporated into her collage pieces.

Nelly was a warrior. In the last few years of her life she struggled with mental illness and the mental health system. She always knew she wanted to help people, and in her short, yet full and beautiful life, she did. 

In 2022, she was a volunteer at the Island Food Pantry, and worked in the local elementary schools as a teacher’s assistant to support students with disabilities through the Bridge Program. 

Nelly loved the ocean and sailing with her father in the wooden catboat he built. She and her mother, a painter, engaged in conversations about art and had a mutual respect for each other’s artistic processes. Together, Nelly and her sister Tova laughed and danced and shared a deep admiration for one another. 

Authentic, insightful and kind, Nelly lived with seriousness, humor, and with sparks of joy. She was deeply loved by her family, friends, and community. As a child, Nelly once asked her parents, “When you die, do you still dream?” Sadly, she will find out before we, her elders, do. She will be missed. And we pray that this next part of her journey will be one of radiance and peace. 

Nelly Katzman is survived by her parents, Doron Katzman and Cindy Kane; sister Tova Katzman; her beloved grandmother, Dorothy Kane; Aunt Chani Shanwetter, brother-in-law Daniel Molina; dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, including her lifelong friend and soulmate Mya Houston. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to local organizations such as the Chicken Alley Thrift Store, the Island Food Pantry, and the Dumptique, or to NAMI Cape Cod and the Islands, 5 Mark Lane, Hyannis, MA 02575, or the Coalition to Create the M.V. Housing Bank, c/o Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, P.O. Box 243, West Tisbury, MA 02575.