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Jean Seidenberg

Artist Statement

I am and have always been a figurative artist. I have sustained this commitment for the fifty years of my professional life. Even my ten years of activity with sculpture was always based on the figure no matter how abstract it might become. My subject has persistently been family and friends, children and lovers, and the relationship of artist to model within the intimacy of the studio. My recent work has been much concerned with the nude, that formidable icon in western art. The lump and hollow, the hard and the soft, the density of pigment expressing muscle and bone, Does that forehead look and feel as hard as we know it is? This is my game whether painting or drawing. The portrait and human figure in art can easily be seen as that part of the western understanding of man as an independent being. From the Fayum coffin portraits to Roman sculpture, through the middle ages, the renaissance and into modern times the depiction of the human head and figure is almost always that of an individual.

I moved to New Orleans from New York City with my first wife in 1951. In New Orleans we had very inexpensive costs of living (relative to other cities it still is) and family support. Always the entrepreneur I earned a living early on through related crafts and activities.. For eighteen years I designed and executed scenery for two of the prominent carnival ball clubs. I did art works for architecture and bronzes for churches, and a great many portraits in graphite, tempera and oil. I am a generally skilled mechanic and over the years I've renovated and built houses and established New Orleans first independent bronze casting foundry for my work in 1963. In 1956 I was a founding artist member of the city's first and only nonprofit contemporary art collective, the Orleans Gallery, which helped create the contemporary art market that now flourishes in our city. Throughout the fifties and early sixties I also worked with photography (which I taught at Tulane University) and was invited to join shows at the University of Indiana and Newcomb College.

I now have a Pantheon of paintings and drawings peopled by friends and neighbors that continues to grow. One admirer commented on the historic dimension of this work. Because of my slow working procedures and the erratic availability of my volunteer sitters, completion of work can take some time. The paired Arthur paintings took two and a half years until I determined that they were complete. Several of the works in my CD presentation are still in progress. The more finished large drawings I have been doing recently are clear examples of where my painting is moving. Larger scale and the interior as subject are entering into the mix. It is actually a return to my painting ideas of the 1960's. Allusions to past masters surface occasionally when I sense the connections, as in the Arthur paintings. In the early 1980's I did my first portrait of my new wife Charlotte with a bath towel as a turban, which she wore after washing her hair. She questioned this informality. So I gave her an art history lesson in Roman Sculpture and Raphael, Rembrandt, David and Ingres. Also, as she is an ardent wildlife gardener and garden writer, she appeared in time in another painting as a latter-day Flora.
- Jean Seidenberg - New Orleans, LA.

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