Oct 30, 2014

Sculptor Profile :: Laura Ziegler

It is debatable what Laura Ziegler sees first in her subject, an interesting portrait or a fascinating form. Her catalogue is filled with terra cotta portrayals of friends and colleagues in casual poses. Although Ziegler is careful to capture a likeness in figure and manner, her sculptures go beyond mere representation to ensnare a larger truth about people: our place, space and shape in this world.

Even in her studies of circus acrobats, fashionable ladies or strolling friars and nuns, subjects more imagined than real, there resonates a familiarity. The viewer may never have encountered these folks in their lives, but they are immediately recognizable. It is the articulated gestures and the expressive silhouettes which give Ziegler's sculptures their universal identity and appeal. "I'm not really a figurative sculptor," Ziegler ruefully admits. "I'm an abstract artist. For me, subject is pretext; it is the form that I'm after. Subject is the means to the end, but not the end itself."

Adding to the intimacy of Ziegler's work is the miniature scale in which she sculpts. Although, not unfamiliar with monumental work, having created two for her home town of Columbus, Ohio, the smaller sculptures bring her closer to her subject. "When I am working on a portrait, I am trying to get into the innards of the person. I never have the person pose. We just talk and I sculpt. I need to have that rapport with the individual." Ziegler recounts the many well-known personalities she has sculpted over the years including actor, Tony Randall; author, Gore Vidal; artist Rafael Soyer; and author, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Though she always has something pleasant to say about each sitter, including sharing rice pudding with Singer, her memory of Soyer is a bit challenged. "Well, we didn't agree politically, I can tell you that. He was more left-wing and I'm more from Columbus. He did, however, give me the greatest compliment of all. He looked at his portrait and told me 'Laura, you're a great artist.' That was all I needed to hear."

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Laura Ziegler's plans of majoring in painting at the Columbus Art School were dashed when the school was temporarily closed. Ziegler transferred to Ohio State University and enrolled in the ceramic sculpture program there. It was there that she met one of her two mentors, Erwin Frey, who would have a profound influence on her work. "Frey taught me the basics of good sculpture which I use today. He taught me to use my imagination and introduced me to the language of shape, form and space. In spite of myself, I grew."

In 1949, Ziegler was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study polychrome sculpture in Florence, Italy. Although not widely popular in America, painted sculpture was a growing interest of hers and she found the Etruscan Museum to hold many polychromed artifacts. "I discovered that all those bleached-out busts and figures, sometimes revered for their porcelain white look, were once painted. Knowing this, it made me feel more connected to history."

During the last month of her fellowship, Ziegler moved to Rome and subletted a studio that would put her right next door to her second mentor, Pericle Fazzini. "Fazzini's door was always open and there was always a crowd of artists sitting around. Fazzini would always wave, but I was timid. Eventually I worked up the nerve to speak to him and we became good friends. He consequently invited me to share a corner of his studio and I stayed in Italy an additional two years."

Fazzini emphasized work and discipline and Ziegler spent 18-hour days in the studio. She felt Frey's teachings complemented more than conflicted with what she learned from Fazzini. "I grew tremendously as an artist with Fazzini, but his teachings only enhanced what Frey had initially taught me. I feel fortunate to have studied with two of the best artists I have ever known." It is debatable what Laura Ziegler sees first in her subject, an interesting portrait or a fascinating form. Her catalogue is filled with terra cotta portrayals of friends and colleagues in casual poses. Although Ziegler is careful to capture a likeness in figure and manner, her sculptures go beyond mere representation to ensnare a larger truth about people: our place, space and shape in this world.

Even in her studies of circus acrobats, fashionable ladies or strolling friars and nuns, subjects more imagined than real, there resonates a familiarity. The viewer may never have encountered these folks in their lives, but they are immediately recognizable. It is the articulated gestures and the expressive silhouettes which give Ziegler's sculptures their universal identity and appeal. "I'm not really a figurative sculptor," Ziegler ruefully admits. "I'm an abstract artist. For me, subject is pretext; it is the form that I'm after. Subject is the means to the end, but not the end itself."

Adding to the intimacy of Ziegler's work is the miniature scale in which she sculpts. Although, not unfamiliar with monumental work, having created two for her home town of Columbus, Ohio, the smaller sculptures bring her closer to her subject. "When I am working on a portrait, I am trying to get into the innards of the person. I never have the person pose. We just talk and I sculpt. I need to have that rapport with the individual." Ziegler recounts the many well-known personalities she has sculpted over the years including actor, Tony Randall; author, Gore Vidal; artist Rafael Soyer; and author, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Though she always has something pleasant to say about each sitter, including sharing rice pudding with Singer, her memory of Soyer is a bit challenged. "Well, we didn't agree politically, I can tell you that. He was more left-wing and I'm more from Columbus. He did, however, give me the greatest compliment of all. He looked at his portrait and told me 'Laura, you're a great artist.' That was all I needed to hear."

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Laura Ziegler's plans of majoring in painting at the Columbus Art School were dashed when the school was temporarily closed. Ziegler transferred to Ohio State University and enrolled in the ceramic sculpture program there. It was there that she met one of her two mentors, Erwin Frey, who would have a profound influence on her work. "Frey taught me the basics of good sculpture which I use today. He taught me to use my imagination and introduced me to the language of shape, form and space. In spite of myself, I grew."

In 1949, Ziegler was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study polychrome sculpture in Florence, Italy. Although not widely popular in America, painted sculpture was a growing interest of hers and she found the Etruscan Museum to hold many polychromed artifacts. "I discovered that all those bleached-out busts and figures, sometimes revered for their porcelain white look, were once painted. Knowing this, it made me feel more connected to history."

During the last month of her fellowship, Ziegler moved to Rome and subletted a studio that would put her right next door to her second mentor, Pericle Fazzini. "Fazzini's door was always open and there was always a crowd of artists sitting around. Fazzini would always wave, but I was timid. Eventually I worked up the nerve to speak to him and we became good friends. He consequently invited me to share a corner of his studio and I stayed in Italy an additional two years."

Fazzini emphasized work and discipline and Ziegler spent 18-hour days in the studio. She felt Frey's teachings complemented more than conflicted with what she learned from Fazzini. "I grew tremendously as an artist with Fazzini, but his teachings only enhanced what Frey had initially taught me. I feel fortunate to have studied with two of the best artists I have ever known." It is debatable what Laura Ziegler sees first in her subject, an interesting portrait or a fascinating form. Her catalogue is filled with terra cotta portrayals of friends and colleagues in casual poses. Although Ziegler is careful to capture a likeness in figure and manner, her sculptures go beyond mere representation to ensnare a larger truth about people: our place, space and shape in this world.

Even in her studies of circus acrobats, fashionable ladies or strolling friars and nuns, subjects more imagined than real, there resonates a familiarity. The viewer may never have encountered these folks in their lives, but they are immediately recognizable. It is the articulated gestures and the expressive silhouettes which give Ziegler's sculptures their universal identity and appeal. "I'm not really a figurative sculptor," Ziegler ruefully admits. "I'm an abstract artist. For me, subject is pretext; it is the form that I'm after. Subject is the means to the end, but not the end itself."

Adding to the intimacy of Ziegler's work is the miniature scale in which she sculpts. Although, not unfamiliar with monumental work, having created two for her home town of Columbus, Ohio, the smaller sculptures bring her closer to her subject. "When I am working on a portrait, I am trying to get into the innards of the person. I never have the person pose. We just talk and I sculpt. I need to have that rapport with the individual." Ziegler recounts the many well-known personalities she has sculpted over the years including actor, Tony Randall; author, Gore Vidal; artist Rafael Soyer; and author, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Though she always has something pleasant to say about each sitter, including sharing rice pudding with Singer, her memory of Soyer is a bit challenged. "Well, we didn't agree politically, I can tell you that. He was more left-wing and I'm more from Columbus. He did, however, give me the greatest compliment of all. He looked at his portrait and told me 'Laura, you're a great artist.' That was all I needed to hear."

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Laura Ziegler's plans of majoring in painting at the Columbus Art School were dashed when the school was temporarily closed. Ziegler transferred to Ohio State University and enrolled in the ceramic sculpture program there. It was there that she met one of her two mentors, Erwin Frey, who would have a profound influence on her work. "Frey taught me the basics of good sculpture which I use today. He taught me to use my imagination and introduced me to the language of shape, form and space. In spite of myself, I grew."

In 1949, Ziegler was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study polychrome sculpture in Florence, Italy. Although not widely popular in America, painted sculpture was a growing interest of hers and she found the Etruscan Museum to hold many polychromed artifacts. "I discovered that all those bleached-out busts and figures, sometimes revered for their porcelain white look, were once painted. Knowing this, it made me feel more connected to history."

During the last month of her fellowship, Ziegler moved to Rome and subletted a studio that would put her right next door to her second mentor, Pericle Fazzini. "Fazzini's door was always open and there was always a crowd of artists sitting around. Fazzini would always wave, but I was timid. Eventually I worked up the nerve to speak to him and we became good friends. He consequently invited me to share a corner of his studio and I stayed in Italy an additional two years."

Fazzini emphasized work and discipline and Ziegler spent 18-hour days in the studio. She felt Frey's teachings complemented more than conflicted with what she learned from Fazzini. "I grew tremendously as an artist with Fazzini, but his teachings only enhanced what Frey had initially taught me. I feel fortunate to have studied with two of the best artists I have ever known."

There would be many fortunate turns in Ziegler's life but none more serendipitous than her introduction to the U.S. art market. Her first show resulted at the Duveen-Graham Gallery in New York City because another artist had withdrawn. Alfred Barr, the director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, just happened to be in the gallery that day and wandered into the back room where Ziegler's work was being unpacked. Impressed, Barr brought eight of Ziegler's sculptures back with him for the MOMA board to consider. Each of the board members in turn purchased a work and Barr acquired a work for the museum. Before Ziegler's "accidental" show had even opened, her work had been sold out and to some of the country's most prominent art collectors. Ziegler ruminates. "Nice things have always happened to me by accident. If I had pursued any of this, I would have gotten nothing."

One of her most enthusiastic collectors was Joseph Hirshhorn, who donated his enormous collection to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. In a buying frenzy at Ziegler's opening, Ziegler snapped Hirshhorn out of his purchasing reverie with a smart comment. "I said jokingly, 'What is this, a supermarket?' We became friends after that." Their mutual respect and admiration would last a lifetime. The Hirshhorn now boasts over twenty-five works by Ziegler in their collection, including her bronze, Eve, which stood at the entrance to the museum for many years. "Joseph Hirshhorn was a character, but he really knew his art. His collection was based on his taste, not by trends or popularity. He bought what he liked and his collection really reflects that. It's very eclectic and it's very interesting."

Today, Ziegler's work is in many public and private collections around the world. In addition to the Hirshhorn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, Ziegler's sculptures can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Columbus, OH; the Roy Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY. Ziegler is well-known for her portrait-sculptures: she created at least 17 portraits for the Roosevelt-Whitney families; among other personages depicted by Ziegler: Charlotte Ford, Zero Mostel, Tony Randall, Julius Rudel, David Levine, Joseph Hirshhorn, Gore Vidal, Mino Maccari, Alicia Patterson Guggenheim, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Raphael Soyer.

Ziegler, who is represented by the Forum Gallery, New York, has had many solo exhibitions around the world at such venues as the Galleria Schneider (Rome, Italy), O'Hana Gallery (London), Duveen-Graham Gallery (New York), Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston), Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (Columbus), Knoedler Gallery (New York), Galleria "La Piramide" (Lucca, Italy), Magnes Museum (Berkeley, CA), and at Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), where Ziegler was artist-in-residence.

In her adopted country of Italy, Ziegler has shown at the Venice "Biennale" in 1956 and 1958. She has collaborated with architects on several important projects including restructuring the Garibaldi Bridge across the Tiber River and the Velodrome for the 1960 Roman Olympic Games.

Never content to sit on her laurels, Ziegler continues to explore new directions with her art. "A recent phenomenon that interests me is working more by touch rather than by sight: the sculpture of my Dalmation, "Quinto," was created this way, working completely by touch, and I am rather pleased with the result."

There would be many fortunate turns in Ziegler's life but none more serendipitous than her introduction to the U.S. art market. Her first show resulted at the Duveen-Graham Gallery in New York City because another artist had withdrawn. Alfred Barr, the director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, just happened to be in the gallery that day and wandered into the back room where Ziegler's work was being unpacked. Impressed, Barr brought eight of Ziegler's sculptures back with him for the MOMA board to consider. Each of the board members in turn purchased a work and Barr acquired a work for the museum. Before Ziegler's "accidental" show had even opened, her work had been sold out and to some of the country's most prominent art collectors. Ziegler ruminates. "Nice things have always happened to me by accident. If I had pursued any of this, I would have gotten nothing."

One of her most enthusiastic collectors was Joseph Hirshhorn, who donated his enormous collection to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. In a buying frenzy at Ziegler's opening, Ziegler snapped Hirshhorn out of his purchasing reverie with a smart comment. "I said jokingly, 'What is this, a supermarket?' We became friends after that." Their mutual respect and admiration would last a lifetime. The Hirshhorn now boasts over twenty-five works by Ziegler in their collection, including her bronze, Eve, which stood at the entrance to the museum for many years. "Joseph Hirshhorn was a character, but he really knew his art. His collection was based on his taste, not by trends or popularity. He bought what he liked and his collection really reflects that. It's very eclectic and it's very interesting."

Today, Ziegler's work is in many public and private collections around the world. In addition to the Hirshhorn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, Ziegler's sculptures can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Columbus, OH; the Roy Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY. Ziegler is well-known for her portrait-sculptures: she created at least 17 portraits for the Roosevelt-Whitney families; among other personages depicted by Ziegler: Charlotte Ford, Zero Mostel, Tony Randall, Julius Rudel, David Levine, Joseph Hirshhorn, Gore Vidal, Mino Maccari, Alicia Patterson Guggenheim, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Raphael Soyer.

Ziegler, who is represented by the Forum Gallery, New York, has had many solo exhibitions around the world at such venues as the Galleria Schneider (Rome, Italy), O'Hana Gallery (London), Duveen-Graham Gallery (New York), Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston), Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (Columbus), Knoedler Gallery (New York), Galleria "La Piramide" (Lucca, Italy), Magnes Museum (Berkeley, CA), and at Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), where Ziegler was artist-in-residence.

In her adopted country of Italy, Ziegler has shown at the Venice "Biennale" in 1956 and 1958. She has collaborated with architects on several important projects including restructuring the Garibaldi Bridge across the Tiber River and the Velodrome for the 1960 Roman Olympic Games.

Never content to sit on her laurels, Ziegler continues to explore new directions with her art. "A recent phenomenon that interests me is working more by touch rather than by sight: the sculpture of my Dalmation, "Quinto," was created this way, working completely by touch, and I am rather pleased with the result."

There would be many fortunate turns in Ziegler's life but none more serendipitous than her introduction to the U.S. art market. Her first show resulted at the Duveen-Graham Gallery in New York City because another artist had withdrawn. Alfred Barr, the director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, just happened to be in the gallery that day and wandered into the back room where Ziegler's work was being unpacked. Impressed, Barr brought eight of Ziegler's sculptures back with him for the MOMA board to consider. Each of the board members in turn purchased a work and Barr acquired a work for the museum. Before Ziegler's "accidental" show had even opened, her work had been sold out and to some of the country's most prominent art collectors. Ziegler ruminates. "Nice things have always happened to me by accident. If I had pursued any of this, I would have gotten nothing."

One of her most enthusiastic collectors was Joseph Hirshhorn, who donated his enormous collection to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. In a buying frenzy at Ziegler's opening, Ziegler snapped Hirshhorn out of his purchasing reverie with a smart comment. "I said jokingly, 'What is this, a supermarket?' We became friends after that." Their mutual respect and admiration would last a lifetime. The Hirshhorn now boasts over twenty-five works by Ziegler in their collection, including her bronze, Eve, which stood at the entrance to the museum for many years. "Joseph Hirshhorn was a character, but he really knew his art. His collection was based on his taste, not by trends or popularity. He bought what he liked and his collection really reflects that. It's very eclectic and it's very interesting."

Today, Ziegler's work is in many public and private collections around the world. In addition to the Hirshhorn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, Ziegler's sculptures can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Columbus, OH; the Roy Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY. Ziegler is well-known for her portrait-sculptures: she created at least 17 portraits for the Roosevelt-Whitney families; among other personages depicted by Ziegler: Charlotte Ford, Zero Mostel, Tony Randall, Julius Rudel, David Levine, Joseph Hirshhorn, Gore Vidal, Mino Maccari, Alicia Patterson Guggenheim, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Raphael Soyer.

Ziegler, who is represented by the Forum Gallery, New York, has had many solo exhibitions around the world at such venues as the Galleria Schneider (Rome, Italy), O'Hana Gallery (London), Duveen-Graham Gallery (New York), Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston), Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts (Columbus), Knoedler Gallery (New York), Galleria "La Piramide" (Lucca, Italy), Magnes Museum (Berkeley, CA), and at Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), where Ziegler was artist-in-residence.

In her adopted country of Italy, Ziegler has shown at the Venice "Biennale" in 1956 and 1958. She has collaborated with architects on several important projects including restructuring the Garibaldi Bridge across the Tiber River and the Velodrome for the 1960 Roman Olympic Games.

Never content to sit on her laurels, Ziegler continues to explore new directions with her art. "A recent phenomenon that interests me is working more by touch rather than by sight: the sculpture of my Dalmation, "Quinto," was created this way, working completely by touch, and I am rather pleased with the result."