The Art of Dick Siegel
When the pixels are on fire
by Laura Bien
Legendary local folkie Dick Siegel stops before a head shot of a 1950s-era robot. Its bolts-for-ears, grille teeth, and raised arm provoke giggles. Siegel raises his own arm: "Hail!"
It's Marvelous Mike, a yellow robot-bulldozer combo that Siegel played with as a child until it broke. "But then I found it on eBay!" says Siegel. "So I bought three!" two of which are reverently arrayed on a cabinet in his home.
Siegel's show of twenty-seven large-scale computer-generated prints similarly evokes the past. He's been making images for a dozen years, and his love of creating art was already evident in the summer of his senior year in college, when his mom fretted that he should get a job while he happily drew geraniums. Siegel traces his love of the visual to his architect-designed childhood home: "As a kid, my earliest heroes were Picasso and Miró."
The vivid colors in those masters' works glow from Siegel's Green Arrows, Blue Traveler. Against a background of green flames snaking in from the edges floats a blue eyelike disc with a red "iris." "I think of it as a friendly traveler, a sort of strange environment," says Siegel.
Many works are manipulated images of antique toys pictured on 1950s-era bubble gum collector cards. One cartoonish blowup of the hood of a green Hudson so charmed a neighbor that she bought it on the spot.
Another two-part work shows a silver toy VW van (right). As with Marvelous Mike, Siegel placed it directly on his scanner. The resulting images show the toy in focus with its edges blurring into a black background. Suspended in darkness, the 1960s icon suggests a loss of innocence, with its wear and flaked paint.
Innocent fun pervades Jupiter C, an altered representation of a dad and son about to launch a model rocket. Against a mottled multicolored background, the purply-blue silhouette of dad, son, and rocket actually shows "the first ICBM missile," says Siegel.
"Father and son would bond over something grotesquely beautiful."
Like Siegel's other works, Jupiter C is mounted on a platform, so that the images seem to float into the room. "I think of [my works] as two-dimensional sculptures," says Siegel, "an object, not a flat image."
Flat images were all Siegel saw most of his life, after an injury in one eye led to cataracts. For years he could see only one-dimensional images, until an artificial lens restored his depth perception.
He remembers visiting Delhi Park afterward, mesmerized by some furrowed tree bark that "went in and out . . . in and out
. . ." and draws a parallel between the restoration of his sight and a rekindling of his "dormant, not new" interest in creating art. View the results at Art Search Satellite Space on Main Street from October 18 through November 29.
[Review published October 2007]