Hollis Sigler, born in 1948 in Gary, Indiana, was an artist, feminist,
and activist. Sigler studied in Philadelphia and Florence before
receiving her MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1973. Her early
professional work was painted in a superrealistic style. Soon after
she left graduate school, deeply influenced by the emerging feminist
movement, Sigler put aside her highly developed technical skills
and deliberately adopted a childlike, spontaneous approach to painting
and drawing in an attempt to capture more directly the emotions
she was experiencing.
Her works in a faux-naïve style often incorporate deceptively
simple, highly evocative statements. The pictures, frequently rooted
in autobiography, can be read as fragments of narratives of a contemporary
everywoman who is always busy sorting out complicated relationships
within such a wide range of topics as home, nature, divinity, and
consumer products. Siglers works dont actually picture
people. Abandoned objects, shoes, and dresses often become stand
ins for the missing human figure.
Much of her work in recent years dealt with how breast cancer affected
her life. Siglers mother and great grandmother died of breast
cancer and in 1985 she also was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her
later drawings and paintings form a visual journal about the celebration
of life, brave resistance to fate, and coming to terms with impending
Sigler turned her lifelong activism to stimulating public awareness
of the epidemic proportions of breast cancer in contemporary society.
She has been instrumental in creating changes in attitude, awareness
and funding for breast cancer research. In 1993 her work was shown
at the Museum for Women in the Arts in D.C. in conjunction with
The National Breast Cancer Coalition-organized petition march to
increase government funding for research. As a result of this campaign
Congress increased spending from 95 million dollars to 400 million.
Sigler recently directed a fundraising project for breast cancer
research that commissioned artists from around the country to design
a set of playing cards. (Y-me Cards)
James Yood compares Hollis Siglers work to that of Frida Kahlo,
another fiercely independent woman whose lifelong history
of extraordinary physical ailments and tribulations makes her work
a poignant act of defiance and victory.
In 2001 Hollis Sigler died of cancer.
Y-me Cards are $20.00
They are sold at :
Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization , ask for Diane Fielder
at 312-294-8548. (mail order)
and through the
Printworks Gallery in Chicago , 312-664-9407 (in-store, checks or
Breast Cancer Answers Art Gallery
Paintings by Hollis Sigler
"Hollis Siglers Breast Cancer Journal"
by Hollis Sigler, Susan Love, and James Yood
Review by Patricia Monaghan
Chicago artist Sigler creates brilliant, strongly colored icons
based on her experiences as a woman with metastatic cancer. What
is so remarkable about the series of paintings documented in this
extraordinary book is how authoritatively Sigler makes cancer an
appropriate center for her art, as appropriate as desire or formal
beauty or any other reason for the creation of art. Cancer is the
baseline of each work, but the works themselves vary splendidly.
A bright pink dress is lifted by tiny birds so that it seems to
fly into a yellow sky in "The Only Permanence is Change."
A ladder stands empty by a dead tree, its broken branches bandaged
together in "I Wanted To Be the Same As Before, I Didn't Want
To Have Cancer." Three red doors labeled "will get,"
"will inherit," and "will not get" are lit by
white lights in "We Are All at Risk." Rather than transcending
its subject, Sigler's work brings the pain and passion of the cancer
experience together with the pain and passion of the creative quest.
Available from Amazon.com