In Fran Siegel’s works on paper and sculptural ceramic and textile collage, the motif of an abstracted pinwheel recurs as a way to process time and history, deconstructing and reassembling the presumptive patterns organizing our personal and collective memory. In her current exhibition—on view through March 4 at Wilding Cran downtown—a monumental installation of scores of drawings chronicles a succession of days during lockdown in which Siegel intuitively and patiently mapped out interlocking webs of connectivity between her own family history, geopolitical forces, and humanity’s drastically reorganized sense of time and balance. Using porcelain, African Dutch cloth, cyanotype, and Flashe paint, Siegel creates drawings and strange, empathetic, quilting-inflected biomorphic objects that play with formal perceptions of hard, soft, commerce, nostalgia, the individual psyche, and the collective subconscious. Writ large, these dynamics encompass global histories of migration and displacement; more intimately, Siegel’s works create welcoming moments of curiosity, illusion, and tactile insight.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
FRAN SIEGEL: My earliest memories are from scrubbing paint stains out of my hot-pink shag carpet in my childhood bedroom. And bringing an early sculpture into my blind grandfather’s hospital room, I was inspired watching his wrinkly hands decipher the form through its tactility. But my decision to become an artist happened when I was a student at Tyler, working with painter Margo Margolis. Her mentorship enabled many women artists to be able to visualize their potential. I aim to be this for my students.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Recognizing my family history as nomadic, my work searches for the cultural slippage that occurs when patterns from people, plants and objects migrate from one location to another.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes. Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia as an undergrad and my MFA at Yale School of Art. I think that building a sense of community in a compressed environment where art is the highest priority is important for honing critical skills and upping your game.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I moved here from New York just after 9/11 for a teaching position at CSULB and have never looked back. Here, many artists find ways to own their own spaces. The L.A. community feels open and supportive with a history of experimentation and nonconformity. Because the landscape is sprawling and varied, artists pull from diverse sources. Living adjacent to the industrial port in San Pedro, I have gained much respect for the environmental advocacy of our community.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
Up now through March 4, my solo exhibition Chronicle, curated by jill moniz, is at Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. It includes the 216 drawings that generated the body of work I made during the pandemic. I am in the research phase for a project focused on Wetlands to be included in the 2024 Pacific Standard Time, and my permanent tile installation for the Los Angeles Metro’s La Brea and Wilshire station is in the fabrication stage.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
This brings up context. For me, the ultimate viewing experience is coming upon art in relation to urban architecture and shifting daylight. Early on I was influenced by “Construction in Process,” which took place in Lodz, Poland in the early 90’s. Consequently, I strive to be included in exhibitions such as Documenta, Muenster, or Prospect, where cities are taken over. And in conversation with artists such as Spencer Finch, Michelle Segre, Kori Newkirk, or Diana Cooper who are also working with permeable forms that engage surrounding spaces.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
During the pandemic I began to listen to Audiobooks. I particularly like memoirs read by the author.
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