Steven Siegel (born 1953) is an American sculptor. He is noted for his environmental artwork, particularly using recycled materials such as newspapers, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. He was born in [White Plains], New York. After graduating from Hampshire College (1976) in Amherst, Massachusetts, he received a Masters of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute (1978). Steven Siegel's early interest in geology was stimulated after reading Basin and Range by John McPhee. The question of deep time was something he needed to explore. Sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, in 1983 he visited the same places where Dr. James Hutton, a medical doctor turned geologist, made his discoveries in Scotland. The geologic processes that were at work in the present were the same processes at work in the distant past. The rock formations in Scotland were the result of these processes at work over millions of years. The experience had resonated with him and is reflected in his artwork.
Siegel's first attempt with newspaper structures was for the Snug Harbor Sculpture Festival on Staten Island, New York. He noticed that the largest landfill in the United States was located on Staten Island. At the Fresh Kills Landfill, garbage is buried under mounds of earth. Newspapers will remain intact and readable for long periods of time. Here, Siegel thought that humans were creating a "new geology" with the human waste being buried under mounds of earth. Thus, his first attempts in this kind of sculpture were titled "New Geology #1" and "New Geology #2," both were constructed in 1990. Since the sculpture has been allowed to be overgrown with vegetation, "New Geology #2" remains intact and the newsprint is still able to be read.
In the fall of 2002, "Scale" was erected at the Abington Art Center, in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. 20,000 pounds of recycled newspapers piled layer upon layer over a wooden framework. It stood twenty-two feet above the ground. "Scale" was thought to be able to withstand the weather conditions for 15 years. In October 2006, the sculpture began to collapse. By April 2009, it further crumbled.
There are both natural processes and processes related to human activity that is going on. We can begin with the natural processes of tree growth sustained by the nutrients from the earth. But, it is human activity which cuts down the trees and where paper is made from the wood pulp. Our culture is expressed in newsprint that is printed on the paper. The newspaper is read and hopefully, recycled. Finally, the last act of human culture, the monument of newspaper is erected, represented by Scale. Nature now has its way, physical processes of erosion immediately go to work, and the structure inevitably starts to erode. Since the structure has organic content, biologic systems erupt in the structure to begin decay. Finally, the structure meets its ultimate destiny being incorporated back into the earth to form soil, the nutrient for living plants. This seems to be a sustainable cycle surrounding Steven Siegel's Scale.
Siegel's studio work has taken on increasing importance since the year 2000. His magnum opus, BIOGRAPHY, was constructed during the years 2008-2013. At 156 feet in length it has never all been seen at once, by the artist or anyone else. This mixed media wall piece has only been seen in its entirety via photoshop: a composite of dozens of photographs. The work has been shown in very large sections at Marlborough Gallery in 2011 and 2013, in addition to other large venues.
Since 2013 Siegel has been producing large collages that combine object making, photography, computer manipulation, and film. ″A Puzzle for Alice″ was completed in 2016 and ″35 Pieces″ followed in 2017. The artist is currently represented by Cynthia Reeves Projects.
References and further reading
- McPhee, John (1980). Basin and Range. Farrar, Straus, Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-51690-1.
- Bolender, Karin, "Into the Holocene: The Art of Steven Siegel", Dutchess Magazine, February 2000
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2009-05-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Steven Siegel homepage
- https://archive.is/20130615174525/http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag03/oct03/seigel/seigel.shtml/article by Patrica Phillips
- http://www.artsjournal.com/artopia/2011/02/steven_siegel_the_sculptor_fro.html/article[permanent dead link] by John Perreault