The Artist Formerly Known As: Anna Siegal

What mediums of visual art do you do or have you done?

I’ve worked with a lot of mediums. I’m taking drawing and painting right now. I took sculpture last year. In high school, I took some printmaking. I do a lot of photography on my own. I’m sort of all over the board right now.

How long have you been interested in art?

Pretty much always. In sixth grade, we had to choose music or drama or art to pursue for the rest of middle school and high school, and there was never really any question that I would do visual arts. I did drama on the side, but art has always been the thing I’ve been most interested in.

Why have you always been interested in art?

When I was little, I just really liked crayons. I was fascinated by them. I think that sort of just snowballed. I just like being able to make things. I like how independent art is. In music and drama, you depend so much on what other people put into the mix, and I like that art is more solitary.

What has your favorite art class been at Williams?

I loved my sculpture class last semester. It was metal and plaster sculpture. There was a lot of welding involved, and that was really exciting. It was also a very hands-on course, which I think is great, and it was a really good mix of people.

What is your favorite medium?

I go back and forth. In high school, I definitely was all about photography. I sort of lived and breathed photography, and I was in the darkroom all the time. Right now, I definitely think very sculpturally, because once you make the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, it’s really hard to go back. In my drawing class right now, and even my painting class, and what I do on the side, there are a lot of issues of three-dimensionality, even if it’s not sculptural necessarily, and a lot of transparency and questions of what layers mean.

What’s the most challenging piece you’ve ever made?

Last year in my sculpture class, we had this assignment to somehow incorporate autobiography into a sculpture. I found it really difficult – first of all to decide how much I wanted to open up, and then what kind of issues I would be willing to put out there for people. It was a class with a lot of people who were interesting and really demanded discussion and explanation, which was great, but you don’t necessarily want to put too much out there for that.

I ended up settling on this pink resin cast of a baby doll that was hollowed out inside and hinged, and kind of disturbing. It was displayed open with pink jelly beans in it, and part of the idea was the question of whether you could take the jelly beans or not. There wasn’t a sign that said “Eat me” or “Don’t eat me” or anything like that. People came up to me outside of the studio and wanted to know if they were allowed to eat the jelly beans, and I was like, “Well, that’s the question – are you allowed to eat the jelly beans?” That also presented a lot of technical problems – the resin was really hard to cast and it dries in a minute, so you have to mix it, pour it and make sure everything is all right with it in a minute. It ended up with a lot of physical imperfections on the surface that ultimately I think were good for the piece, but were not intentional.

I think my favorite piece that I’ve done in a class – because I’ve done a lot of things on the side that I’m fond of – was another sculpture for that class. It involved nails on the wall in a pattern, all these index cards that said “loves” on them and pens interspersed on the wall. Everyone who viewed the sculpture, which was in the lobby of the studio, was supposed to fill out a card. It ended up being a very collaborative, interactive piece. I still have the cards, and I’m very attached to them. A lot of my friends came to see it, even people who wouldn’t necessarily have been in the studio, and filled out cards, so it’s very personal.

What other exhibits have you had?

At home, in my senior year in high school, there was a New York City high schools exhibit. It was a juried show; they selected a certain number of pieces and hung them in the New York Historical Society. I had a charcoal drawing in that, which was exciting. In New York I also did various things that were up in various places, as well as just at Brearley, my high school.

What were those exhibitions like?

It’s exciting. It’s not the biggest thing. I tend to get a bit of stage fright, which is ridiculous because I do love getting criticism on stuff and having discussions with people about what they think could be improved. I think you put so much of yourself on the line when you do something that you really think is good enough to put up, so you do get a little bit nervous having people see it.

What’s your favorite thing about art?

It sounds so pretentious to say “the process,” but I just think it’s a really exciting thing. I’m not talented enough that what I visualize at the beginning is exactly what I get at the end. In a way, I think it would be great if you could have a brilliant idea and then be sure that you could do it, but I also think it’s a really interesting thing to see how you work in mistakes you make, and things that you do that you really like but didn’t necessarily mean to do, how you make the rest of the piece rise to that. I really like the actual process of doing it, getting all messy and hands-on and having a break from insane amounts of reading.

What do you think the most challenging thing about art is?

In art classes here, I think the hardest thing is doing something that’s ambitious but not killing yourself over it. Time is so limited, and you can’t put something aside and then come back to it in a few weeks. Everything’s a one or two-week project, and that gives you a very limited time frame, especially in the looser classes like my sculpture class last year, and my drawing class now. Even just figuring out materials could take all the time you have for the assignment.

I worked with an artist in Manhattan the last few summers as her studio assistant, and she’s fantastic – very intelligent and very talented. We talked about it a lot, and she thinks the hardest thing she has to do is stay original. There’s so much going on – so much has been done and so much has been done for shock value more than for artistic value, that staying original in dealing with your own subject matter, but still making something that’s good art, not just interesting because it’s never been done before, is a hard thing.

Do you think you would consider pursuing a career in visual art?

I’ve considered it as something I would love to do. Talent is a big issue, and I think it’s really hard to know at this point whether I have anything to contribute that people would be willing to pay for, which is sort of a sad issue. I’ve definitely thought about ways that I can apply art. I think I want to be a studio art major – art is the only thing that really holds my attention. I definitely do want to apply it somehow, whether it be in art education or some sort of political art conflict resolution. But certainly, if people were willing to pay me to be in the studio and crank out art that I liked, that would be my ideal job.

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