Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting to Know (and remember) Kurt Seligmann

Quotes from his book on Magic


Seligmann Sculpture in October Show at
Blaindidonna Gallery, New York

There are still many people around who knew both Kurt Seligmann, who died in 1962 and his wife Arlette who died in 1992. 

We've begun collecting memories of them. Dr. Judith Kessler has kindly agreed to be The Convener of Memories:  She starts with her own as a art student with Kurt Seligmann in 1960 at Brooklyn College:

1) What was he like:     Imposing, serious, demanding, professional, engaged - qualities which stood out among a faculty of rather well known artists who were part of the NYC art scene but without the powerful presence in the classroom that KS was. He showed up as a real teacher who knew he was a master of his craft and expected you to work to your fullest to learn what you could. When you worked under his scrutiny, your level was raised. If you were cleaning the lithograph stone for example, he expected you to really scrub. And you did, willingly, to get it right and reach the high standards he set. I saw him as the "king" of his realm - the printmaking studio- and looked up to him as someone who took charge and looked after his
realm (everything had to be done with care and precision like taking care of the tools,cleaning the plates, handling the inks, etc. ) He exuded a sense of mastery, that was what I looked for at that stage in a teacher, even though printmaking was not my strongest interest.

2)  My most prominent memory:     His standing beside me, really looking at an etching I had made of Dostoyevsky, of which I was very proud and helping me to see details to make it better - like how
I could clean up the plate, heighten the contrast, etc., seeing me throught the process, and giving me the feeling like I had a real teacher, which was not how it was with the other faculty, who seemed to be simply there to give some instructions and leave you on your own (with the exception of Walter Rosenbloom).

3) Did he have an effect:   I took with me that art in any medium is a serious process, not just when sharp tools are involved, and that when motivated, as I was by him, I could produce works that endured because they meant something due to the energy and effort that went into them (like the Dostoyevsky engraving).
I have such a strong visual memory of him in the posture of a teacher - really know a teacher should be, fully engaged and present. (Of course this was in contrast with how some of the other faculty members did not seem very interested in teaching. He was/is a powerful reminder of how to be,
that is, an inspiration and role model of mastery, which I have tried to take with me into my own profession.