By Lucy Lazarony
A mixed media artist based in Delray Beach, Vicki Siegel doesn’t choose painting or photography for a piece of art. Instead, she combines them.
Siegel, an art educator who teaches at the Creative Arts School at Old School Square in Delray Beach and the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, will be discussing her artwork Jan. 25 at the Cornell Art Museum, where 16 of Siegel’s most recent works are on display through Jan. 28. Palm Beach ArtsPaper asked her some questions in advance of her art talk.
ArtsPaper: When did you begin combining photography with painting?
Vicki Siegel: I began combining painting and photography in 2009. I had been creating more traditional oil or acrylic paintings, landscapes and combinations of images segmented on the canvas, but I felt this work wasn’t deeply interesting to me. I had two back-to-back deaths in my family that year that inspired me to delve into a more narrative work. In this series of “Bridge” paintings, I began to use photography and painting together on the canvas. The painting was dominant in these earlier works and the narrative was very personal. After I began working this way, I discovered that my work fit in with the works of other contemporary artists.
PBAP: What do you like about it?
VS: By combining painting and photography together, I create images that unite my fascination with the world around me and my obsession with the physicality of paint. Blending the two art forms is a process that results in images that are both real and imaginary. I am a paint “geek.” Alongside traditional painting techniques, I experiment with new and exciting methods of using paint. There is nothing like having a paintbrush in my hand and losing myself in the act of painting — “being in the zone”.
PBAP: How do you use each medium in your art? How do the two mediums inform each other?
VS: The photographer’s gaze allows me to observe and archive reality, while the paint flows from my subconscious to my brush in marks that are uniquely my own. The painting and photography are now very deeply combined in the process. The paint gives me unexpected color and marks. In the photography, I find both familiar and unexpected forms.
PBAP: What comes first? Do you begin with a photograph? How do you choose the subjects that you photograph?
VS: My work usually begins with an idea or a concept — the environment, geographical boundaries, or feminist ideals. I photograph wherever I am in the world, during travels and daily life. The camera is my sketchbook. I often stop someone with an interesting face and ask them if I can photograph them. Other times, I have models come into the studio to work with me on an idea I have. I create paint marks and color on canvas (poured or painted abstract works) and then photograph these. My subjects are light and shadow, human and nature plant forms, and architecture. I live in the subtropics, where each day you come across something strange, bright and colorful growing out of something that wasn’t there the day before.
PBAP: You work in multiple layers, layering 10 or more layers of photograph and paint in your artwork. Please discuss this process. What are you looking for when you layer and how do you know when you find it?
VS: I begin each piece by digitally altering the photographs that I have taken and superimposing them with other photos and photographs of paint I have created. I may do this five to 10 times until the composition, color, and feeling of the new image I have created satisfies me on an emotional and artistic level. As I am doing this, I am already thinking about how I will later be using paint to further alter the image. I then have it professionally printed using archival inks. In the studio, I begin painting and drawing on top of the printed image, working it until a new composition emerges. The same way an abstract painter might make a mark and alter the painting time and time again as you work through it.
PBAP: How did you choose the 16 pieces currently on display at the Cornell?
VS: All are part of a new series that I have been working on in 2017. The paintings utilize motifs commonly found in my work, the human form, nature, architecture and a bright colorful palette. In my work, I ask the viewer to engage by comparing what is photographic and what is paint, but also what is personal and universal. It is my hope that the viewer sees my vision of how strange and wonderful life is and how beautiful nature is and the necessity of preserving it.
PBAP: What will you be discussing at the art talk? Can you give a brief preview?
VS: My background, inspiration, and the process used for this new body of work will be the basis for this art talk. I will also discuss the use of mixed media by today’s contemporary artists and where my work fits into contemporary art today. Since we will be in the gallery with the art, I will be able to walk through the show and give insights into many of the pieces in it.
Vicki Siegel will give her art talk, titled The Photographer’s Eye, The Painter’s Hand, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Cornell Art Museum, Old School Square, Delray Beach. Call 243-7922 or visit oldschoolsquare.org. For more on Siegel’s art, visit www.vickisiegelart.com.