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Siegel’s Latest Installation

Published: August 21, 2017

Lineage through Landscape: Tracing Egun in Brazil Installation

Art’s Fran Siegel invites visitors to UCLA’s Fowler Museum through Dec. 10 to explore her drawing installation titled “Lineage through Landscape: Tracing Egun in Brazil.”

The exhibition considers Afro-Brazilian transcendence of global displacement. Symbolic systems of landscape inform ancestral rituals that keep the connection to Africa alive. It is part of the museum’s three-part exhibition program for “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” exploring Brazil’s African history and cultural heritage.

Siegel, a member of the university since 2002, created a 36-foot-long elaborate woven drawing installation suspended on a curve that extends from three gallery walls. The horizontal weft consists of drawings on translucent drafting film that depict the sacred plant life that links Brazil to Africa.

“I was interested the codification of the landscape which acts as a surrogate for the homeland,” she explained. “I learned to identify sacred plants grown in preserves on the island of Itaparica during my Fulbright and fellowship at Instituto Sacatar.” Leaves are derived from or are cognates with those from Africa and are believed to have a spiritual force as well as medicinal and protective potencies. Their varied depictions dominate Siegel’s installation to underscore the personification of landscape and its significance within Candomblé.

“The vertical ‘warps’ are constructed mostly from strips of diaphanous fabric interspersed with lengths of deep blue cyanotypes of actual leaves and of floral cloth printed in Brazil,” she explained. The drawing continues in the form of porcelain bone-like leaves, which are mounted on the wall. The grid formed by the overlapping materials references the fractured blue and white ceramic tiles used by the Portuguese to decorate colonial churches in Salvador.

Siegel’s Fulbright was a Humanities Core Fellowship for Teaching and Research that ran for four months.

“My first stop was Rio, and as a part of my Fulbright, I taught at the university and then conducted research with a group of students in the local archives on Rio’s role in the gold trade,” she recalled. “In São Paolo, I worked with an expert team of researchers at Museo Afro Brasil who helped provide historical context around Afro-Brazilian imagery and religion.”

And on the island of Itaparica, off the coast of the city of Salvador, she conducted on-site research and began the work in a studio.

“My large-scale drawing projects are often investigations into Diaspora because this reflects my own family history and the significance of place,” she said. “I am looking at what happens when a culture is removed, often violently, from its place of origin. Urban populations become reshuffled and I am interested in discovering and identifying some of the visual results of this in my work.”

For additional information on this recent Siegel installation, visit the following websites — Getty Los Angeles and UCLA’s Fowler Museum.