I have become intrigued recently by the work of sculptor George Segal. Segal used orthopedic bandages dipped in plaster to construct some of the most haunting and memorable figurative art of the twentieth century. He created life-sized models based on his body and those of friends, family, and neighbors. The models are seated at lunch counters, poised on street corners, or waiting in train stations. These figures inhabit everyday spaces, however, because they are sculptures, they are also three dimensional. Looking at them is like looking at a moment frozen in time. Looking at them you wonder what they were thinking about in that very moment that they were captured. His sculptures give us the opportunity to step outside our fast-paced world in order to take a different look at how we function within our world. What does the presence of these individuals mean to us? If we were to walk around and see them from differing perspectives, would the meaning we ascribe to them change.
One thing I have found interesting about Segal’s work is how the bandage becomes a metaphor. The bandages used to create these sculptures are the same material used to help broken bones mend. These bandages create shells of who people are and for me there is a fragility in that. Yet at the same time, there is a sense of universality for me. There is the ability to relate to the moments in time he captures in his work. Having spent countless hours on a bus in my life, I can picture myself in those moments and then I begin to ascribe meaning to what that experience was like for me as the one being observed and the one doing the observing. It makes me think about the meanings and stories I was ascribing on to others and that others were ascribing on to me.
Each moment in time is powerful. Rarely do we take time to fully appreciate the meaning of each moment. If we could, would we slow our lives down? Would we take time to be fully present in the moment and soak in the meanings associated with those moments? What meanings does even the picture of this sculpture evoke in you?