Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Art of Helen Segal I - Chamsot

My irrepressibly creative sister-in-law, Helen Segal, creates things of beauty out of other peoples building discards. Here are a few examples of chamsot she has created.

Helen is based in San Diego, California. She says of her work: "Seeing the potential for beauty in the most mundane objects is the genesis of the creative process. I know that anything can be transformed from the ordinary into something distinctive. The challenge lies in the transformation. Rising to that challenge is the ultimate in joy, akin in a way to solving a difficult math puzzle or finding just the right word to complete a poem. Very little is abject waste. I save and store all manner of broken bits and pieces, knowing that they will find a home in a creation. Sometimes the object itself speaks to me and gives me a direction. For example, I look at a handful of shells. To some they would resemble imperfect ruined parts of a once upon a time shell. I turn them around in my hand and there I see a shape of a dress as if it is blowing on a clothesline. This shell looks like a pair of old style bloomers and this is a corset. Soon I have a closet of turn of the century clothing. Now I need to make manifest of my interpretation. Thus the creative process continues.

Layers interest me. They tell a story, like a peeling billboard or the flaking levels of an over painted wall. Building layers is a constant source of surprises. If I place down a dried leaf and then layer tissue paper over I’m amazed at the rice paper effect I find. Extrapolating from that I explore multi layers, with each action a reaction, and thus the piece develops itself. Now I am working with shades of purple, building my layers of lavender and violets and then I can suddenly remember a translucent amber mosaic that I stashed away, a perfect color to ‘visit’ amongst the colder tones. I place it over, resin it down and something akin to Baltic amber results… and thus history evolves and I continue on.
The small ‘hamsim’ are fun to make. Each one has its own personality. Made from fragmented glass tile that a friend was ready to throw away; I begin with cardboard, layer with an interesting paper or design, then glue on the 5 shards of glass. Digging through my boxes of damaged costume jewelry, beads, stones, mosaic, buttons and various collectibles I source just the right color or shine to pool together a particular character for that ‘hamsa’. I, then, cut out the shape, paint the back side of the cardboard to resemble a copper plate and then finesse and ‘age’ the piece with a tiny tipped paint brush and oxidized colors.
Color is central to all my art. Influenced by the bold colors of Africa and then Native American and Mexican folk art, I explore the effect colors have on each other to enhance or develop a mood. Color is the tempo of an art sonata. Just the right color hinted at in a small area can make a piece of art sing. Ruminating over the colors I experiment with a few until I find the perfect harmony. Often I have had to remove myself from a piece for a few days. When I come back to it, I can solve its mystery for completion. It feels like magic when it all comes together with just the right combination.

That feeling of knowing that it is done is blissful. The process is intense, sometimes dramatic, at times frustrating and certainly messy. Once whole, I love scanning back and remembering the chaos. I recollect when all the disparate and seemingly uninvolved and isolated pieces lay around close to my fingertips still in their original state of discarded/ unwanted trash form. Only I knew they had potential. I knew that with my ability to manipulate materials I could breathe form and meaning back into them. Watch the process in fast forward speed. See colors, shapes flying miraculously together to form a cohesive whole. The wand has been waved. Sabrina wriggled her nose and chanted a magic spell. The genie granted the wish. Disorder transformed.
I am most fond of making an art piece for somebody in particular. If I have a sense of who they are or what they are like I can make the art to fit. Everyone has an individual style in their dress or the way they like to depict themselves. I can tap into that and create accordingly. From my knowledge of Pilates and postural form I can read people’s bodies and know a great deal about them before they even open their mouths. I use this knowledge as well as my artistic eye to infer beyond. As I work, thinking about the character of the person, the message develops.
An obscure, hard to pronounce word comes to mind. Synesthesia.

Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiae or synaesthesiae), from the ancient Greek σύν (syn), "together," and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), "sensation,"is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes. (Definition from Wikipedia)

I mention this as maybe there is a connection here, that the unusual perceptual experience I have with color relating to music, sound and people is thus translatable to art.

Creating is my meditation, a self-induced state of consciousness of a sort. I can take myself into this place and be there for hours without noticing the passing of time. It is solitary, internal and can be deeply satisfying."

If you'd like to order any of these once-off unique pieces, or discuss a personalized work with Helen, you can contact her on segalhelenatgmaildotcom To see more of her work online, go here

1 comment:

Alex Peterson said...

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