Hollis Sigler

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. Sigler’s works don’t 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. Sigler’s 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 death.

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 Sigler’s 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
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 cash only)


Breast Cancer Answers Art Gallery
Paintings by Hollis Sigler

"Hollis Sigler’s 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


She Wants to Belong to the Sky, Again
at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago