“Sketch of William Segal ca. 1999”
Graphite on Deckled Printer Paper
The end of our community event cycle has arrived, and time has come to summarize and reﬂect on this occasion of our artistic coming together under the auspices of the late William Segal and his template for spiritual and artistic work. All the works of participants are hanging together, gallery style, on the wall opposite of Segal’s exhibition of 18 pieces, which were the ﬁrst pieces to be accessioned into our permanent collection this year; the ﬁrst pieces to come into our holdings after the collection assessment freeze. The MAS Board of Directors and MAS Executive Director, Susan Welsh, made the decision to freeze acquisitions while we assessed our holdings, organized and analyzed what we have, and what those works need. I never realized how holdings could have needs; how acquisitions require work for the life of the holding of it: conservation, storage, and cleaning. Objects require consideration; where do they belong, and how can we keep them safe? It is honoring the object and doing it justice that we cast our eye on what we have here. It was without doubt that the works of William Segal belong here, in Segal’s birthplace and early years of the 20th century. His life spanned that century; he was born into it and made from it, and we have his record of it through his artwork.
The fact that a man’s life can be used as a template for study is a special thing. That a man could exemplify something to emulate; that his work and his demeanor reﬂected in his artistic expression could, 21 years after his death, be resurrected and used to further evolve a community of artists in this ﬁrst part of the 21st century, is quite remarkable. This is exactly what we have done.
I remember sitting at my computer making notes about this idea to invite our community into a practice of meditation, painting, creating, and then hosting their eﬀorts in a group show. I remember thinking how this felt risky and hard. I remember deciding not to do this; it seemed like it would be resisted somehow, but Covid continued to press my coworkers and me to move through that kind of fear of failure or the fear of that work done, possibly not resulting in success. I hate to waste hard work.
It may not look like a huge success; the number of participants (perfect in my eyes) was relatively small, but the outreach to disenfranchised artists who work solo, for the most part, further isolated by pandemic, made an impact. When I ﬁrst started handling the works, I saw something in Segal’s practice that resonated with my own personal motivations. Those motivations are based on the premise that art is a vehicle, not unlike psychotherapy, that can be used to heal all sorts of wounds and trauma. Our experiences here in Macon during the Covid shutdown needed some kind of balm, some kind of dressing, and this seemed to be it.
Here are the dedicated participants by name: Rod Whyte, Edna Garrett, Bren Powell, Teri Brice Carter, Tara Williamson, Wendy Loren, Alex Kittel (Germany), and Sophie. Each participant came together with curiosity and dedication. We gathered out of unspoken loneliness and grief of suﬀering the eﬀects, known and unknown, of the pandemic. We used art and community to connect and to feel better. We bravely shared some pretty intimate thoughts together safely via zoom. Unﬁnished work and works in awkward progress were generously and vulnerably shared. Thoughts were pondered. It wasn’t a pedagogical experience, one of lessons and teaching, but more of community and of connection. In pandemic times of great separation and isolation, this series of events was not only helpful but necessary.
Because it was promoted and oﬀered via zoom, we were also able to scoop up some takers in Europe! Imagine my shock and delight that two participants joined us from the UK and one from Germany! I could feel Segal and his erudite well-traveled charm wink his good eye - he loved spending quiet time in a cathedral in France.
I have written a lot about the three genres in the past weeks through materials and art history I shared with participants, which served as a type of reference or syllabus, so I won’t go into all that again; it is academic information of interest to the participating artists. What I will do is recap the scope of events. Using meditation and spiritual work, Segal painted the three major genres: Self-Portrait/Portrait, Still Life, Landscape. We followed suit, sharing helpful meditations, studying the masters of art history in each genre, and sharing our individual favorites in our zoom meetings. Each genre received three sessions. The Art of the Landscape wrapped up the entire series, and now that it is completed, we ﬁnd ourselves a small salon- like Segal and his wife would hold in Manhattan and Paris in the 1930s-50s, except ours is right here in Middle Georgia (and Germany and England). After each genre, the participants brought their work to hang in the gallery here at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. They are placed together and in conjunction with our inspirer and coconspirator, William Segal.
We are a bit richer now, in these months, having come together and shared and committed and worked. Painting is a solo gig and can be very lonely. Coupled with the isolation of the pandemic, it was a very helpful and easily executable activity that helped us stay well on all fronts. Wellness in a community relates to the health of its arts. I’ve read this before, that one can judge the health of a city or town by its health of the arts: visual, musical, theatre, museums, and city/street art.
We here in Middle Georgia are one step closer to good health. I thank my artistic peers so much for making this work, for committing to the events, and being so generous of spirit, time, and eﬀort.
I believe we will go forward together in time, recording life in Georgia, not unlike Segal did. And who knows? Maybe one day, in a small town in Germany, a group might ﬁnd our template helpful.
Curator of Art
Museum of Arts and Sciences
Below are works of the participants of the Segal community events.
The Art of Self-Portrait