If you ever doubted that stone could be described as ‘delicate’, Barbara Segal’s creations will assure you; it is possible. Her creations are unique, often feminine, and always impressive works of art.
Ségal has many influences, including a love of Italian architecture, which originates from her four years spent living in Italy, in both Pietrasanta and Carrara. Here she worked alongside many other great artists, including Agustin Cardenas, Bruno Lucchesi, Max Bill, Paolo Grassi and Mario Fuendi. This was following her studies at the Ecole Nationale supérieure des Beaux-artes, Paris.
Here she also developed an eye for Baroque and Renaissance art, and was struck by the architectural beauty of European historical buildings. This can perhaps most clearly be seen in her public sculpture, Yonkers Sculpture Meadow at Medora.
In contrast, Ségal has other, more modern influences, and assimilates her American heritage through her pop culture-style creations, such as ‘Flip Flops’ (2015) or the more recently made, Guns & Roses jacket (2017), completed in a beautiful white marble. She has created many fashion-influenced sculptures, including classic Chanel gift boxes, a lingerie set, jackets, sports shirts and girls’ dresses. Her more recent works begin to question these icons. They are not only about beauty, but the implications of idolizing certain trends or brands.
The detail in her vestments make her sculptures stand out amongst other artists. The realistic folds and detailing in the ‘material’ are striking; in terms of both their beauty, and the skill needed for their completion.
Overall, Ségal takes her inspiration from life itself, and anything she finds beautiful within it. As she herself said: “personally powerful images compete for my attention: elegant finery, pop and fashion icons, European architecture, and Baroque excess.”
Ségal uses a number of different working materials, including marble, onyx, smeraldo and calcite.
She uses all different kinds of marble or stone, depending upon the piece, and the effect she is trying to create. For the earlier works of Little Girls’ Dresses (inspired by a family portrait from the 1950’s), for example, she used alabaster and onyx, which work well in recreating the soft texture of these dresses. The translucent quality of these types of stone, allow light to almost shine through the dresses themselves, giving the illusion of a light and delicate material.
She will often mix and match materials where needed. Her black and shiny ‘leather’ jacket is created through a combination of Belgian black marble (which gives it a lovely sheen), alongside steel for the buckles and zip. Used together, they ensure the realism and high-quality work that have become synonymous with her name and work.
Her sixties patterned shirt (Pucci, 1994) is another good example, of her mixing marble and onyx stones, to create the contrast needed for its complex pattern, not dissimilar from a mosaic art. Her in depth knowledge of these materials and her skill as a sculptress, means there is likely nothing, she cannot create.
In order to make these creations, Ségal uses a mixture of tools to carve out the grooves and shapes needed to make each look to life-like. She can use anything from pneumatic drills for the larger pieces, to air hammers and chisels (to carve the more detailed sections of each piece). Her diamond bandsaw is mostly used to make inlays in the stone, which bring her work to life.
The Birkin bag is often seen as a status symbol in American culture and this likely is the reason for Ségal’s numerous recreations of this particular fashion item.
One of her most memorable works is arguably her stone version of the Hermes Birkin Bag, which is often indistinguishable from the real thing. This design has been recreated by Ségal numerous times – in Portoro marble, Belgian marble with gold leaf and glass mosaic arts, and Persian marble: All of which leave a completely different impression of the form and design of the same bag. While Belgian marble has a glossy sheen to it; the rustic red Persian stone, has an exquisite earthy feel to it.
Another of her works has been used as a part of the garden for the Ella Hotel, Texas. The 2000 pound pink onyx and white Carrara marble Chanel bag is aptly named, ‘Obsessive Compulsive’, and is likely a comment on societies’ current culture and aspiration to gain material wealth. The bag certainly gives the hotel entrance a larger-than-life feel.
Helping the community
The Sculptress is somewhat of a philanthropist; taking time to invest in community projects, such as Art on the Main Street, a non-profit art organisation designed to make art available in public spaces. Her belief is that sculpture and art can be used to promote well-being and inclusion in communities.
For this reason she also began the Art trucks project, where artists’ work was displayed on garbage trucks, giving Yonker’s surroundings a new lease of life. One of the largest works she contributed was Muhheakantuck, an aluminum sculpture that took a year in the making and symbolises the Hudson river.