George Segal in Black and White: Photographs by Donald Lokuta, at the Eisenberg Gallery of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick. Through Saturday, May 16.

About the photographer: A painter, teacher, and historian, Donald Lokuta grew up in northern New Jersey and earned a bachelors in education at Newark State (Class of 1968). After earning a Ph.D. in education at Ohio State University, he was hired to teach in the fine arts department at Kean University, where he currently teaches photography.

Lokuta met George Segal, already a prominent figure in the art world, in the 1980s, when a mutual friend invited him to visit Segal’s studio in South Brunswick. “I discovered that Segal was curious about the fact that I taught photography; I learned that Segal had been interested in photography for most of his life. But it wasn’t until a later visit when he agreed to let me make a portrait of him in the studio, did I begin to discover George’s very serious interest in exploring photography further.”

Their ensuing friendship led to Lokuta helping Segal sharpen his skills as a photographer and Segal asking Lokuta to lend a hand (and sometimes pose as a model) during the sculpting process.

Says Lokuta: “While we were working, I found perfect opportunities to make photographs. I would wipe my hands of plaster and pick up my Leica, make a few photographs, and get back to work. Now the photographs felt right. The photographic sessions that followed gradually developed into a more personal photographic project.

“As our relationship evolved, I began to assist in casting models and finishing the final sculptures. We worked on one piece after another and talked about art — his art and philosophy, about what was on view in museums and galleries, and about the art world. We searched for materials for the sculpture, went to exhibitions and openings, and sat talking in the studio with classical music playing softly in the background. My camera was always close by.”

The photographer’s statement: “People often get to see artists posing with their (completed) works, but not so much of them in the studio when the object is being made. With these photos, I want to show the human side: Who George was as a person, and not just in the studio. These are not orchestrated portraits. I want viewers to see the man, to look at his work, and understand who he was. If you understand the person, you can understand the art better.”

“I could have made all of the photographs of George Segal in color, but I believe that black and white photographs make a very emotional statement. I wanted the photographs to reinforce how I felt. Color sometimes gets in the way.”

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