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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

Brunswick.

The artist, daughter of the late sculptor George Segal, has been

working

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

created

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

overgrown.

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

University

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

preschool

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

interests."

"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.

"There

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

responsibilities.

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

currently

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

happened

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

www.segalfoundation.org.

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

memorials

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

refreshed.

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 time."

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

logistics

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

childhood

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

file,"

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

Collection

of Art.

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

Pennsylvania

Academy of Fine Art. Paul Gratz, who has been in business as an

conservator

for 20 years specializing in oil paintings and gold-leaf frames,

operates

the gallery with his wife, Harriet Gratz.

— Nicole Plett

Rena Segal, Gratz Gallery, 30 West Bridge Street,

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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