published Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Free to imagine: Artists finds new inspiration with less structure

IF YOU GO

* What: Michelle Segre: Sculptures and Drawings.”

* Where: Cress Gallery, UTC Fine Arts Center, 752 Vine St.

* When: 9:30 am–7:30 p.m. Monday–Friday; 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

* Admission: Free.

* Phone: 304-9789.

When artist Michelle Segre decided she wanted a less-structured approach to her works, it freed up not only her mind, but some old pieces that had been taking up space in her study.

A couple of giant chicken bones, in particular.

In 1997, she’d made the pieces — scaled 17-to-1 exactly — based on a leftover poultry carcass she’d used to make soup. About three years ago, she decided two of the remaining bones could be repurposed.

“Like a sculptor discovers, just storing pieces can be problematic, but I had them and I kind of felt sorry for them just laying there. Like an old friend,” she says.

When she decided to go more improvisational, it gave them, and her art, a new life, she says. Today, both bones are on display at the George Cress Gallery in the Fine Arts Center at the University of Tennesee at Chattanooga as part of “Michelle Segre: Sculptures and Drawings,” on display through March 20.

Made of plaster, metal, beeswax, foam and string, and combined with wire, metal tubing and yarn, the “bones” are now part of the pieces “Let Me Love Your Brain” and “Transmission of the Threadbare.”

“It is a fun way to give them a new life,” Segre says.

They are two of several dozen pieces that include sculptures and drawings and designs from workbooks that Segre keeps with her at all times. The workbooks include clipped art, sculpture designs, drawings and song titles she collects for her psych-folk band, Ham. To keep the books intact, she photocopies the pages, and those are part of the UTC exhibit.

“After I copied the first one, I thought, ‘Wow, I like the way that looks.’”

Segre was born in Israel and currently lives in New York, where she teaches at the School of Visual Arts adn laGuardia Community College. She has been an artist for two decades.

Cress Gallery Manager Ruth Grove saw Segre’s works at the Derek Eller Gallery in New York about two years ago and has been working to bring her here since.

“It’s exciting to see the pieces here,” Grove says. “It is configured differently because of the spacial differences, and I think it gives the pieces a different meaning.”

Segre says she hopes visitors will see the showcase both as individual pieces and as a whole. She’s a big fan of the old “Star Trek” series — the first one with Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock — and some of her pieces draw from those shows. “Cloud Minder,” a foam, beeswax, metal, string, plaster, papier-mache and enamel piece, draws it name from one of those episodes.

“Cryptanalysis of the Enigma” is the largest piece in the exhibit and includes wood, wire, seashell, Mylar and modeling clay. Its name derives from the code-breaking machine the Germans used in World War II.

“It’s based on the transmission of information, and I just like that name,” Segre says.

Approaching things from a more improvisational manner has made art more fun, interesting and challenging, she says.

“I don’t know what the piece will look like when I begin it. To me, that is more interesting and hopefully it is to others, as well.”

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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