Patrice and I sit outside Spark gallery on a balmy May afternoon.
May I ask you your age?
NO! It's none of your business! Actually, I don't really care. I'm saying this from principle.
How long have you lived in Denver?
Estes Park has been my home since 1991. I came here for a job.
Can you tell us a bit about your earlier years?
I was born in Portland, Oregon and I lived there for the first 26 years of my life. The weather really affected me - the constant gray and wet. Probably I was depressed though I really did not know that at the time. There was not much travel in my younger life. Mostly it was confined to the Pacific northwest.
And at 26...?
At 26 a friend and I decided to take a road trip. I had a friend in Pensacola, Florida. We drove to Pensacola and my friend there suggested Boston. We worked our way up the East Coast. We passed through New York - it was too much - and soon we ended up in Boston. The whole thing took a little over two weeks. Coming from Portland with the cloud and rain Boston struck a chord. There was sun, and the people seemed normal. They had a certain ambition and I responded to that. I made a home there.
When did art, and art making, become a part of your life?
In Boston I had two roommates who were studying art and I was very interested in what they were doing. I loved the culture of Boston, the music and the museums [in Portland, Patrice had never been to a museum. Of her own volition she went to museums in Boston.] I was living in Brookline. One day I went to a neighborhood art supply store to buy a pad and pencils. I asked the person behind the counter if he knew of an art teacher. I was given the name of a Ms. Dorothy Lepler, an older woman who taught a small class of maybe five people. Dorothy was connected to the Massachusetts College of Art (MCA). We spent a lot of time copying pictures that she had us bring in. This was a beginning, however I knew it was not enough. I wanted more.
Eventually I enrolled in a night class at MCA. My teacher in that class vouched for me and assisted me in my effort to enroll full time at MCA. [Patrice did not yet have a college degree] Once I was a student at MCA I realized I had found my niche. I studied drawing and painting. Perhaps drawing came easier however it was painting that really challenged me and compelled me. I did not know the language of painting. My teachers at MCA were not helpful. I wanted to be good at it and I knew I needed to learn more.
After graduating I decided to study art in graduate school, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I had great instructors at that school, including the artist Neil Welliver.
I moved back to Boston for a romance. In Boston I did a lot of teaching in a variety of settings such as adult education centers and small colleges. And then, as I said, I moved West in '91 because of a job.
How would you describe your work? How does it present itself visually?
OK. The paintings are very auto-biographical. I am very serious abut my work. I paint things that mean a lot to me. It is good work with (I hope) universal feelings that are identifiable. Family photographs have become a great reference for me and they are the source for much of my work.
That kind of started by accident. I wanted to work from the figure and I could not afford to hire models. I made self portraits and then I turned to photographs. I have boxes of them. I choose them with care. I crop them and I edit them. I will add and subtract.
Do you have any expectations of the viewer?
I have no expectations of the viewer.
Any final thoughts?
No final thoughts, just keep going...
Well... The content of my paintings IS important! Maybe... maybe I am achieving some kind of enlightenment. Maybe I am working out some kind of psychological issue. Still, I am not certain that this whole process of painting really "helps" me.
My exploration is fundamentally more formal. I am interested in light, composition, and color.
My paintings have gotten better over the past ten years. I am not as lazy. I have made better decisions and I approach my work with a greater scrutiny.
Interview with Evan Siegel, May 4th, 2014
Interview with Evan Siegel
May 4th, 2014
How old are you?
Tell us a bit about your earlier years.
My home town is Levittown, New York, on Long Island. At 17 I went to the Illinois Institute of Technology, to study Architecture. I have always had an affinity for architecture and I did very well in school academically, however I was very lonely.
After a year I left and transferred to the University of Toronto for two years. There I studied Liberal Arts, literature predominantly. I fell in love, and this is really what I wanted to do. We did not get married. I was 21 years old and was searching for something to do with my life. I left school, took a year off, and went to Arizona to study with a famous architect - Paolo Soleri. He was building a futuristic city north of Phoenix called Arcosanti. We lived in concrete cubes that had big, Louis Kahn-like circular openings (no glass). Our heat came from fires we built in old oil drums. As the weather became cold the program ended. I went to San Francisco to visit friends, worked in a hospital as a janitor and stayed for six months.
The following spring I moved to New York City. My father had just turned 60 and he was ill with pneumonia. Also, I wanted to be closer to my family. I have always had a predisposition to art. My mother suggested Hunter College, which had (and still has) a very good art program. My painting professor, the artist Robert Swain, hired me as his studio assistant. I worked for him for seven years. I loved oil painting and the whole gestalt of art. My life seemed set from there.
How did you get to Colorado?
In New York I met a woman (Mary Guzzy) who was in theatre. She had a friend in Denver who wanted to start a theatre company. It was called Industrial Arts Theatre. Mary moved West and extended an invitation to me. So I moved to Colorado. That was in 1986.
I found a job in a restaurant as a busboy and found a studio on Grant Street to work on art. Eventually I became restaurant manager. I was there for seven years. Sculpture was my medium at that time.
What were your sculptures like?
They were very architectonic and representational of cities. The sculpture included images in metal and in photographs. These were integrated into the brick, metal and glass in a kind of collage of materials. The work was very heavy and I made them a kit of parts, easy to assemble and disassemble.
When did you join Spark Gallery?
How did you end up an architect?
The owner of the restaurant that I managed decided to sell it. I did not want to go from restaurant to restaurant and have a de facto career in the restaurant industry. I decided to consider attending graduate school. I was too arrogant to go for art. I felt I knew myself pretty well as an artist. Architecture was always with me, so I decided to go to school to study architecture at the University of Colorado in Denver. When I graduated I was 40. In my last year of school I had an internship with Dana Crawford. This eventually turned into full-time employment. The work was stimulating and varied, ranging from graphic design to real architecture, where I used my skills to rehabilitate landmark buildings. I worked with Dana for seven years.
Do you have a Seven Year Itch, Evan?
In 2004 I left Dana’s office. I had gotten the Masters in Architecture and worked for years in a close, yet tangential, relationship to architecture. I wanted the license. In order to do this, government policy mandated that I had to work for a licensed architect. Fortunately I was hired by Paul Bergner Architect. I accrued the necessary experience and hours, sat for the exams and eventually obtained the license. It was necessary.
Around this time I came into a small inheritance due to the liquidation of my parents' estate. I was working on my art and doing sporadic design work. The economy collapsed. I was like Nero, fiddling away... I wanted to re-enter the architectural profession however my technical skills were atrophying and I realized that I was getting older...
What are you doing now?
Finding full-time employment was difficult. In the middle of the night, several years ago, I decided to start a business creating illustrated coffee cups. I thought I could utilize my passions for drawing and painting and celebrate the world's cities. It seemed like maybe a good fit. Starbucks??!! (It was the middle of the night..). The business is called Art To Go, with credit to my friend Bobby Gervey for this name. It is fun, yet fledgling.
Are you doing OK? I know I bought a piece of yours...
Thank you for that. Recently I was awarded a public art commission in Greeley. This is very exciting.
Do you want to tell us what it is?
The City of Greeley has commissioned eight artists (including Spark member Barbara Baer) to design sculptural trees that will hopefully serve as a catalyst to rejuvenate an important downtown thoroughfare.
Do you know what you are going to do?
Yes. At this time I am contending with some basic engineering issues and the complexities of fabrication. This is what I was trained to do. I am happy, and apprehensive. The work will be installed in September.
Do you have any expectations of the viewer?
When I have art in the gallery hanging on the wall and people look at it for a second (if that) and walk away, I am mildly heartbroken. So to answer your question, yes, I do have an expectation of the viewer. I would be less than candid if I said 'no'.
No, I don’t. The world is a lovely place.