Naomi Siegmann

AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for August, 2008

Naomi has been living and working in Mexico City for many years where the close proximity of the pre-Hispanic art and archeological remains have greatly stimulated and enhanced her creative spirit.
She began carving wood early in the 1970's, and it became the medium in which she worked for over 20 years and which material comprised the bulk of her production. "In all those years, I never had to cut down a tree to fill my sculpting needs. On the contrary, all my material came to me through what one would call serendipity; a tree was hit by lightening on a friend's ranch; the rejected supply of mahogany beams for the Franz Mayer Museum fulfilled my needs for over ten years; trunks rejected by a veneer-making company because they were irregularly shaped or split, etc."
Naomi amplifies this story. "Perhaps being a sculptor who uses wood as a material, and worrying about our depleting forests is somewhat of a paradox. In my case however, it was serendipity that led me to obtain the wood which I value so highly.
For several years I worked in plaster, plasteline and clay cast in bronze or aluminum.  One day, I met Hedi Yampolsky - the mother of the late talented, photographer Mariana Yampolsky .  I was invited to her home and had to walk past a virtual mountain of trunks of  dried wood sitting in her garden.This wood was given to her by a friend who made wood veneers. These trunks were irregularly shaped and thus unusable in his business.  Not willing to sell me any of the trunks she gave them to me -  more than 30 trunks of cedar, suchitl - a tropical wood  - and walnut!  Suddenly I was carving wood.In another incident, a friend called to tell me that an alder tree on his ranch had been hit by lightening and would I be interested in having it?  What a question   I did however, have to cut it down myself.  My daughter came along to photo-document the event.
Shortly thereafter, the Franz Mayer Museum (which was under construction) rejected over 100- mahogany beams for being the wrong size. The lumberyard that supplied the museum with its wood was now selling dried mahogany beams measuring up to 7 meters in length.  Needless to say, they became the major source for my sculpture needs for the next 15 years.
Wood sculptors are scavengers; seeking cut and aged wood, finding it in the most unusual places, and through unexpected means. We don't destroy our forests to fulfill our sculptural needs. So, Serendipity may have led me to carve wood, but paradoxically, I'm finding it necessary to protect and save it for future generations.
Years ago I visited Palenque, Chiapas in Southern Mexico to visit the beautiful  remains of a Mayan site.  In the surrounding area, I saw mountain after mountain totally devoid of trees.  Nothing but the roots were left.  It appeared as though a giant storm had ravaged these mountains.
Returning to the capital I contacted the Federal Forestry Department where I expressed my concern about this terrible devastation.  I was told that although a reforestation program exists, it is largely ignored and not respected, a situation which I was made to understand, exists throughout much of Mexico.  Sustainable forestry is practiced in only a few areas of Mexico.
Ever since that distant day in Palenque, I have been most concerned with the deforestation of Mexico.  I finally decided that I must do something to call attention to this growing catastrophe that exists not only in Mexico, but also throughout the entire world.
Outrage and concern can certainly fuel one's desire, but a vehicle is needed  to channel this energy. I conceived a project which would permit me to use both my artistic abilities and passions to make people listen and take notice of something truly important.
I invited 15 artists ( from the United States and Mexico), asking each to  create a  'tree' constructed from any material (plastic, glass, metal, bronze, ceramic, etc.) -  except wood or its byproducts.  This "forest" travelled to museums and/or public parks in 4 cities in Mexico and 4 in the U.S. My idea was to plant a seed of awareness in visitors viewing such a wood-less "forest", and invite them to contemplate a world without trees.
The forces of nature tell us that if we wish to endure, we must learn to respect all the elements of  our environment in our protective 'household'.  We must learn and care enough to replant our  forests, reuse metals and plastics, use safe chemicals.  And we must readjust our thinking and our lives to sustain what is left of the environment that spawned us."
Due to health problems, it was necessary to leave her passion for wood and seek her artistic expression elsewhere. She came upon an incredible treasure of sand-casting molds in wood - hundreds upon hundreds of "patterns" which eventually were assembled into sculptures and furniture. These molds were transformed into abstract forms together with another sculptor in a shared project which was exhibited in the Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico City.
Naomi works in bronze, steel, paper, acrylic, recycled materials and found objects. Her imagery could be called abstracted realism and in some cases, hyper-realism.

Previous Conservation Artists of the Month

(December, 2019)
(November, 2019)
(October, 2019)
(September, 2019)
(August, 2019)
(July, 2019)
(June, 2019)
(May, 2019)
(April, 2019)
(March, 2019)
(February, 2019)
(January, 2019)
(December, 2018)
(November, 2018)
(October, 2018)
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