Rebecca Segall '20: A Dream Deferred

Studying art was a dream Rebecca Segall (Cert. '20) knew she would get to someday, but wasn’t sure how, or when it would happen.

She had plans to attend UArts after high school but life took her on a different path. Segall continued making and creating as she raised her family, even starting a jewelry business, but she wasn’t sure if art school would be a realization.

“I made a lot of jewelry, and made so many quilts because I could sit in a room with my kids playing on the floor and just work,” she said. “I called it crafting, but it was really about color, shapes, and composition.”

She eventually took a few classes at the Main Line Arts Center but was looking for more.

It took a chance meeting with PAFA President & CEO David R. Brigham to revive her dream.

“I was watching a fourth grade play at my child’s school and David Brigham sat next to me, but I didn't know who he was,” Segall said. “We got to talking about something artistic and he invited me to tour PAFA sometime. A year and a half later, I started here.”

Once she started studying at PAFA, Segall’s artistic practice cracked wide open. Even though she’s technically a Painting major she says she’s “all over the place” when it comes to media. She’s taken bookmaking classes, studied video with professor David Dempewolf and is presently working on projects that incorporate collage and sculpture.

“My job here is to develop good brain habits with regard to risk,” she said. “Be risky creatively and learn how to expand ideas and flesh them out.”

Segall is using her new toolkit of skills to tease out ideas across projects. You can see the evolution of her work throughout PAFA. On view in Tableau, PAFA’s café, is Untitled, a collage by Segall.

The 2-dimensional work is then pushed and starts to come off the frame in a piece hanging outside her studio.

“I made fabric from that first collage and then I started thinking, what else can I do with it?” Segall said. “So I started quilting it onto this canvas and then began stuffing it and pulling things forward. I wanted it to come alive.”

The development for the third piece came out of a conversation she had with one of her critics. She was encouraged to step outside of her comfort zone and away from her background in décor and decorative arts.

“A critic told me the work was very elegant and suggested that I explore the opposite, to complicate things, play with what is less pleasing, less obvious,” Segall said. “So the next time my critic showed up I had this giant, three dimensional piece going and now I will move forward from here.”

The nearly life-size work with fabric and flowers jutting out from every direction rotates so people can take in every angle and detail. But the piece isn’t the end of the road for Segall’s original idea.

She has one more iteration planned, which will ultimately hang alongside the three other pieces in the Annual Student Exhibition this May.

The Annual Student Exhibition (ASE) has been a tradition at PAFA for more than 100 years and is the culminating event in a student's journey at PAFA. Each spring, 3rd and 4th year Certificate students, along with 4th year BFA and 2nd year MFA candidates have the opportunity to curate, install, and sell their own works in the PAFA museum galleries.

With the looming deadline of hanging work for the ASE, Segall has forced herself to bring projects together and focus.

“I’ve heard that less is more and to not overhang the wall. Now is the time where you need pull it together and work towards something.”

PAFA students create more than 1,000 paintings, sculpture, works on paper and installations. It is one of the most celebrated student group shows in the country. More than 100,000 visitors will attend the ASE. Students retain the majority of the purchase price of works sold.

While the ASE signifies the end of a student’s time at PAFA, it also marks the beginning of an artistic career.

“David Brigham said to me that I should definitely leave here with far more questions than when I first enrolled because if this is where the questioning ends then what kind of artistic life and practice will I have,” Segall said. “I’m grateful to have met David when I did and I’m honored to be studying at PAFA. I love this community. It’s thoroughly inspiring.”

Rebecca Segall '20 in her studio.
Rebecca Segall '20 in her studio.
In the studio of Rebecca Segall '20.
In the studio of Rebecca Segall '20.
In the studio of Rebecca Segall '20.
In the studio of Rebecca Segall '20.

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.