by PJ Heath
Troy University’s International Arts Center is welcoming a new exhibit which highlights work of Alabamian artist, Jerry Siegel, a Selma, Alabama native known for intimate portraits of Alabamians, their lives and landscapes.
The Center is billing Siegel’s latest exhibit, “The Tender Land; The Promise of Living,” which is inspired by 1954 opera “The Tender Land” by Aaron Copland and Erik Johns. That opera was itself inspired by “Let us now Praise Famous Men,” the legendary Depression-era photo collection by Walker Evans.
“Photography is something I fell into during my college years,” Siegel said. “I was never a great student, but photography became my outlet, and I went into continuing education night classes, thus growing my love for photography.”
In January of 1986, Siegel opened his own photography and painting studio, selling his paintings to private collectors and showing his collections in museums over the years.
Siegel, a former Atlanta Hawks photographer who’s based in Atlanta, is inspired by the lives around him, including his portraits, streetscapes and landscapes. The current photography exhibit features many images of life in the Black Belt, a term coined in the plantation days, to describe the the fertile soil in the region.
When his father died in 2000, Siegel “had a fire lit in his heart to find meaning and furthermore pursue photography with purpose.” His current exhibit has been a work in progress since 2002, he said, adding that he continues to add more pieces to the collection.
Carrie Jaxon is the director and curator of the International Arts Center. She met Siegel a few years ago during an art show at the Johnson Arts Center. Later, they reconnected and Jaxon convinced Seigel to present his photographs in the International Arts Center.
“Jerry Siegel’s work is so incredibly powerful because, for many, it is a picture of home and it reminds them of stories and memories from their own lives,” Jaxon said.
She said grants from the South Arts’ partnership with the National Endowments for the Arts and the Alabama Humanities Alliance, made it possible to display “Siegel’s nostalgic, relatable photographs for the Troy community.”
Siegel plans to continue adding to this exhibit and sharing his work with other institutions.
“My work is about knowing southern roots and evoking a response to what many southerners call ‘home,’” Siegel said.
The artist will hold a reception with refreshments from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Jan. 26 in Troy University’s International Arts Center.. The exhibit officially opened Friday, and but there will be events concerning the exhibit throughout the month of February.