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 50 Years/50 Artworks      

51.
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Hollis Sigler
(American, 1948 – 2001)
She Dreams of Escaping to Hope
1997
intaglio on Rives BFK paper with custom mat in monotype and lithograph, with hand-painted wood frame
26" x 31 1/8" x 1 1/4"
Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation Purchase

Hollis Sigler’s early figurative work was patterned after academic and photo-realism, but in 1978 she made a conscious decision to draw and paint in a faux-naive style. While unique in many ways, Sigler’s abstracted naturalism brought her work in alignment with other Chicago Imagist artists, among them Gladys Nilsson, Claire Prussian, and Phyllis Bramson. In a simplified and intentionally childlike manner, Sigler depicted stage-like interiors and backyards, peopled with clothing instead of figures, their titles often hand-written on flying banners.

An openly lesbian woman, Sigler’s work often addressed themes directly related to her own and other women’s lives: family, romantic relationships, sexuality, and feminism. In 1985, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer (a disease that had claimed both her mother and grandmother), she focused on the themes of loss, disease and treatment, the inevitability of death, and the emotional complexities surrounding these challenges to health and well being. Published in 1993, Sigler’s Breast Cancer Journal featured sixty reproductions of her artworks with notes about her personal experiences with the disease and treatment, along with essays by Susan M. Love, M.D. and Chicago art critic James Yood. Art in America called the book “one of contemporary art’s richest and most poignant treatments of sickness and health…. Taking on a kind of religious conviction, her jewel-colored symbols imbue a death-haunted situation with miraculous, celebratory life.”

Throughout Sigler’s mature paintings, prints and drawings, including those of the Breast Cancer Journal, color plays an essential role. High-keyed and glowing, it suggests heath, optimism and vitality. She Dreams of Escaping to Hope is a scene of transformation, a theme reflected in Sigler’s imagery and in her handling of colors as they shift and blend from cool to warm. Clothes are shed on a wide stair, a day bed is vacated, and birds ascend with a gown above a glowing sea. An intaglio print produced at Tandem Press in Madison, Wisconsin, the image is framed by a matboard printed with a geometric design, birds and star shapes, the whole surrounded by a hand-painted frame. Printed on the matboard’s bottom edge, the words “Being on the Edge of Victory Brings Us Hope” underscore the optimism and bravery with which the artist faced the disease that took her life in 2001.

 
 
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