Claire Seidl has been an abstract painter for just over forty years and a photographer for twenty. She grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and moved to New York City after receiving her BFA from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She received her MFA in Painting from Hunter College, City University of New York. After teaching in the art department at Hunter College for a decade, Seidl went on to study photography at the International Center for Photography. She then taught in the art department of Hofstra University for five years. She lives and works in New York City and in Rangeley, Maine.
Seidl exhibits nationally and internationally, has had 40 solo shows, and has participated in over 100 group shows. Museum and University venues include the Aldrich Museum, Noyes Museum, Columbus Museum; McNay Art Museum, Ewing Gallery at University of Tennessee, Murray State University, KY, Syracuse University, Hamilton College, Yeshiva University, Hunter College in NY, Haverford College, College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, DePauw University; Newcastle Polytechnic, England, Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russian Museum of Photography, Portland Museum of Art, Ogunquit Museum, University of Maine Museum of Art,, Bates College Museum of Art, University of New England.
She has had longstanding gallery affiliations with ICON Contemporary Art, Rosenberg & Kaufmann Fine Art, Lesley Heller Gallery, Pho Pa Gallery, Van Deb Editions, John Davis Gallery and solo shows at Long-Sharpe Gallery, Kristen Frederickson Gallery, Painting Center, Red Filter Gallery, Fox Gallery, Aucocisco Gallery, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, June Fitzpatrick Gallery, Claudia Carr Gallery, Leubsdorf Gallery, Freedman Gallery at Albright College, Contemporary Arts Gallery at New York University.
Seidl will have a retrospective of her paintings and photographs at Maine Museum of Photographic Art
University of Southern Maine, Portland in 2021.
She is a member of American Abstract Artists and chair of its Exhibition Committee.
In both my painting and photography, I explore the same formal concerns, creating work in both mediums that draws the viewer in to my world, encouraging contemplation and challenging our perception of the often-thin line between reality and abstracted memory.
I have no pre-conceived ideas or plans when I paint and adhere to no set of procedural givens. My relationship to painting is not settled, but dynamic and evolving. Each painting is resolved according to its own exigencies and my job is to look hard and long enough to see them. I seek new ways to mesh surface and space convincingly and always look for new pictorial resolutions.
I use mark-making freely and intuitively with a variety of tools including brayers, brushes, spatulas and knives, some of which scrape and gouge the surface creating line and revealing multiple layers of paint.
I focus on the visual, but mine is also a personal response to paint that includes emotion. Previous states and underlying incidents are often veiled, like distant recollections or like things seen briefly and now largely forgotten.
There is darkness in my paintings, and light; speed and stillness; strength and softness. There is color with its attendant associations, and the expression of something uniquely human.
For me, drawing serves as structure; it delineates and connects the layers of space I create on the two-dimensional surface. It is different than, but just as important as elements like color, tone, and texture. Drawing is an expressive way of mark-making or gesturing, something I have been doing for a long time.
In my etchings, I use multiple plates and orientations, and repeated press runs with ghost images. The printmaking process slows me down and is, by virtue of the medium, more strategic than my painting or drawing. My work on translucent Mylar has lines, forms and washes on both sides (another kind of ghost). Sometimes the Mylar pieces are printed with ink from plexiglass plates or from each other (Mylar can serve as its own plate, too). Drawing is also a balancing act between adding and subtracting, especially because Mylar is so easy to wipe off. Erasure is another kind of gesture with another kind of meaning.
My painter’s eye directs me in shooting, developing, and printing the photographs. Elements intrinsic to painting, like gestural line, multiple layered space, and ambiguous form and content, are all present. Some people see my photographs as abstractions, but they are deeply rooted in the real world; they are filled with specifics of place and people and natural phenomena - and their ephemeral nature.
My approach to realism is subsumed by the camera itself, which reveals what we can’t see - in the dark, for example - or what is lost when we shift our gaze. Many of my photographs are taken at night when our ability to see clearly is limited but the open gaze of the camera dispassionately records everything. I use long exposures which capture the small, even insignificant or sporadic movements of a person, a shaft of light, or slow-moving waves on a lake, revealing a visible record of time passing, of memory enhanced.
All of my photographs suggest a human presence, with or without figures in them. People, usually family, both inhabit and escape from the frame of the camera. The viewer can also step into this space, filling an absence as if crossing a threshold. In long exposures, the figures become ghostlike as their movements are recorded over time, while the man-made elements of home (the things we leave behind) seem fixed in time. I open the lens and walk away. Little or no attention is paid to the camera on its tripod, standing there by itself. When people stay put, their expressions grow inward as they stare into space. When they move and gesture, they become blurred and ghost like while their surroundings appear permanent. At times, the images feel like a flash of memory, a moment held.
I am very interested in how we see (or don’t see) what is right in front of us. The camera gathers more visual information, especially over time or in the dark, than our eyes can. It can hold multiple layers of space and reflections in focus while we can only perceive one at a time. My photographs show more than the unassisted eye can see. They are not manipulated in the darkroom.