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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the
September 5, 2001 edition of U.S. Newspaper. All rights reserved.
A Solo Show in New Hope
Rena Segal is looking forward to fall when she’ll be
back looking at Lake Farrington near her family’s home in South
The artist, daughter of the late sculptor George Segal, has been
on a series of landscape studies there since 1994.
Segal shows a selection of these works, as well as a still life series
that spans several years, in her solo show, "Rena Segal on Her
Own," that opens at the Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio
in New Hope on Friday, September 7. A reception takes place from 5
to 7:30 p.m. for the show that continues to September 30.
Segal’s show features 24 works in landscape and still life, most
over the past two years. Comprised of works selected out of her studio
by Paul Gratz, she says it will be her biggest show in three years.
Segal’s painterly landscapes are built up of individual, animated
brush strokes that capture nature’s dynamic energies and which can
sing with unexpected color harmonies. These impressionistic studies
of color and light actually begin as photographs, taken by the artist,
which she interprets in oil stick.
"I know Lake Farrington so well — I grew up in that area —
and yet it’s different all the time," Segal explained in a recent
interview. "I’m always surprised by what I photograph. I like
the fall, October and November, when the leaves are changing and the
light is different throughout the day. In the summer it’s too
There’s no form in the summer."
Raised in rural South Brunswick on the chicken farm that once provided
her parents’ livelihood, Rena, now in her 40s, lives and maintains
her studio in nearby Somerset. She studied at Montclair State
and received her MFA at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School for the Arts.
Both father and daughter always recognized that following in a famous
parent’s footsteps would be no easy task.
"My daughter, Rena, has been stubborn and dogged in her drive
to make her own paintings, and the great understatement is that it’s
difficult for her being my daughter," Segal told U.S. 1 during
an interview before their shared show at the Gallery at Bristol-Myers
Squibb in 1998. Rena completed his thought: "A little difficult!
I knew at 16 that I wanted to be an artist… I was realistic. I knew
I’d have to have another job and support myself until I could do what
I wanted to do full time." She has worked as a teacher, from
to high school.
"When Rena and her older brother were young, we couldn’t find
or afford baby-sitters," George Segal explained. "We’d take
both kids to New York to see the gallery shows on 57th Street, and
we had to bribe them — `One more gallery, and then the Central
Park Zoo.’ They were inevitably welcomed into our whole area of
"We also went to performances in those early days — Allan
Kaprow’s, Jim Dine’s. It was a fun time," continued Rena. "We
didn’t realize it was artwork, but later we knew. But at the time,
it was great to participate. You weren’t shut away, you weren’t told
this is an adult thing, kids can’t come. We were always welcomed at
openings, performances, Happenings."
"Since I was in graduate school, my father would come to my studio
and we talked," says Rena Segal today. "I miss that. It was
constructive criticism as best as I can describe it. I guess it was
a unique exchange."
Segal’s forthcoming show, which the Gratz Gallery has named "On
Her Own," seems to draw attention to the family’s loss. As she
describes the still lifes in her show she draws on the new categories
of experience that have been imposed on her life. "That was the
calm before the storm (I’ve been dating things like that lately).
This was from before the time that dad got sick," she says.
are eight oil-stick landscapes from after — it was in the fall
and I kind of remember. There were some I was working on when he was
in the hospital and some when he came home."
Since her father’s death in June, 2000, at age 76, Rena
says her time has been further divided between her own art making
and new commitments. Traveling back often to the family home in South
Brunswick, she has spent much of the past year helping her mother
establish the George and Helen Segal Foundation.
"Right now I’m squeezing in studio time between foundation
Over time it should balance out and settle down," she says.
Rena is second-in-command at the foundation headed by her mother,
Helen Segal; her cousin Susan Kutliroff serves as business manager.
The foundation owns George Segal’s unsold works, and New York art
dealer Carol Janis remains the artist’s representative. The foundation
arranges for exhibitions of the work — an extensive show is
touring Japan — and also fulfill the artist’s desire to award
grants to young artists.
"That will be my area," says Rena Segal. "It hasn’t
yet because we’re still working out the process." She plans to
create an artist panel to review applicants’ slides and award monies.
The foundation can be found on the Web at
She says the process of mourning her father was complicated by the
many public tributes that took place after his death. "I was doing
fine until the memorials started. Then I stepped backwards several
months. There was a memorial in January, the Museum of Modern Art
in March, and something else in April. It was a whole cluster of
and it kind of set me back."
She spent last fall making an inventory of her father’s work on behalf
of the foundation.
"Doing the inventory was a wonderful journey. Looking at all his
works from the late ’50s and early ’60s, when my brother and I were
growing up, brought back so many memories and so many stories. I’d
see a sculpture and I could see the person who posed for it and a
whole lot of stories would come back. I think the student who was
helping me got an art history lesson out of it. As much as it was
emotional, it was very good."
"Every artist needs to get out of their studio and come back
You look at somebody else’s work, and you come back to your own with
fresher eyes," she says. "Usually I would have to go into
New York and go to galleries and museums to get the cobwebs out. So
my work rhythm has changed now, but I’m still thinking about it all
The second series of work featured in Segal’s New Hope show will be
recent additions to a still life series that she began in 1993. This
series has only been exhibited once before, as part of this summer’s
five-artist show presented by the South Brunswick Arts Commission.
Again the works are derived from photographs of a still life set up
in the studio. Segal enlarges and prints images on paper which are
collaged onto board, then worked with oil stick. Asked about the
of printing and collage, she notes, "Resolving the problems is
half the fun."
How did she settle on the images of bottles that are the subject of
the series? "We’re thinking found objects in my house," she
says. "You go rummage around your house and you find things that
appeal to you." Rummaging with her father for found objects that
were incorporated into his sculptures was one of her favorite
activities. "I guess it was growing up with finding things. It’s
like stored information you had as a child and you retrieve it when
you need it."
Rummaging came in handy again when Gratz Gallery asked her for an
artist’s portrait and she came up with one taken by her father. "I
didn’t have a photo I liked so I went rummaging through his flat
she says. "Where were we? I think we were in a Chinese restaurant
not far from here," she says with the same note of humor in her
voice that she shares with her family. "Dad had his camera with
him, so he took it while we were waiting."
This is Segal’s ninth one-person show. Her solo exhibitions include
a 1989 painting show at the New Jersey State Museum, and shows at
Ocean County College, Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters, and the
Advocate Building in Stamford, Connecticut. Her group exhibitions
include an Asian Tour of the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation
The Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio opened in New Hope last
September, specializing in 19th and 20th century American and European
paintings with focus on New Hope artists and painters from the
Academy of Fine Art. Paul Gratz, who has been in business as an
for 20 years specializing in oil paintings and gold-leaf frames,
the gallery with his wife, Harriet Gratz.
— Nicole Plett
New Hope, 215-862-4300. Opening reception for "Rena Segal on Her
Own." Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Exhibit continues to September 30. Friday,
September 7, from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
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