Many people showed up at the opening of “Sigelle – Selected Works” at Trygve Lie Gallery in New York City. Not surprisingly so, because it is an exciting show – a special show – honoring a woman artist who did almost all her work on the sly.

Born in Stockholm in 1900 as Sigrid Elisabeth Lindforrs, she became Sigelle the artist only later in life. As a young opera student in Dresden, Sigrid Elisabeth met Swedish diplomat Gösta Oldenburg, married him and moved to Chicago in 1936, where she eventually raised her two sons Claes and Richard. Then in the 1950’s she began making Christmas cards for friends, something that developed into an interest in creating art. Some of these cards, and many other remarkable pieces, can be seen at this exhibition. It shows works by a very modest woman. And it makes you wonder what she was like - who else would hide such pieces?

“I remember when they moved to New York,” says Elfi von Kantzow Alvin, who together with her daughter Anita Alvin Nilert have curated the exhibition, and who was a close friend of Sigelle. “The Oldenburgs came here after he retired as Consul General in Chicago, and I introduced her to the Scandinavian community in New York. She was a strong, positive person. And she was very versatile.”
The works are almost entirely abstract, very minimalistic and with a strong sense of color and shape. Her sons found them in the basement, and though Sigelle herself had wanted her art destroyed, they felt it needed to be seen.

“She exhibited in Chicago, but never in New York,” continues Elfi. “We looked at over 100 pieces, and picked these 30 for the show.”
Elfi’s daughter Anita calls the exhibition “a labor of love”.
“We knew her well, and we know her sons well. It’s a tribute, and it’s really moving. I remember her as Elsa, a woman who didn’t want to blow her own horn, yet a dynamic woman. And now look at her art! It’s fresh, it’s good! It easily holds its own even among famous artists.”

Dick Oldenburg calls his mother’s art “fascinating”.
“It’s a revelation to see them as a group,” he adds, “their inventiveness, their variety and their color.”

And his brother Claes Oldenburg, himself of course a well-know artist, says:
“It’s remarkable because you really have to know where you are going (when you’re working) with this kind of art. And my mother had no formal training. It’s very, very good.”

Maartje Oldenburg, Claes’ daughter and Sigelle’s granddaughter, calls the art “intuitive and immediate”.
“Though she had no training, she had a free spirit coupled with a well-educated sense of structure, she never does any mistakes in art. She was very shy, yet at the same time confident and dedicated and with an enormous drive in order to create this type of paintings.’
Sigelle worked with felt markers, collages and other media. She died in 1984.

“Sigelle – Selected Works” can be seen till March 6, 2011.
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