Kathran Siegel

Born in 1944 and raised in Forest Hills, Queens, Kathran Siegel attended Bennington College, where she studied painting with Paul Feeley. She worked toward an MFA at the University of New Mexico, helped develop the visual arts program at UCSD in La Jolla, lived and painted in a Manhattan loft, and taught at the University of Florida in Gainesville. 

While working on an M.Ed, she took a woodworking class, which led her into 25 years of making furniture and other carved and turned objects. Until her recent retirement, she taught art in Florida and in and around Philadelphia, where she currently lives with her daughter, also an artist. Her work is in several regional museums and public art collections. She was awarded an NEA Art Ventures Grant and later an Andy Warhol Foundation Grant. She has published articles on the arts and art education “I came to wood,” she says, “while searching for a way to build my surfaces into volumes. Learning the machinery and discovering the plasticity of the wood itself resulted in my eventual shift first to carvings, inspired by the tropical plant and animal life I observed in that strange Florida environment where I was living at the time. Later adding function into the mix, my work became identified with the resurgent Studio Furniture Movement. Function, then a forbidden fruit of the fine arts, appealed to my anti-establishment sensibility. 

“More than 40 years have passed since my initial search. I was thinking then in traditional painter’s terms, of the surface as a flat or two-dimensional plane. The volumes I had in mind, I saw as comprised of planar surfaces. I had missed the distinction between a “plane surface,” which is flat by definition, and a just plain surface. The latter contains thickness, and with that, both additive and subtractive possibility that I now delight in.” 

written by Elizabeth Zimmer for “Persimmon Tree,” an e-zine, Summer issue 2016


I was schooled in non-objective painting at Bennington College in the 1960’s and made an abrupt shift into sculpture and nontraditional woodworking in the late 1970’s. 

Along with me, came my love for color, paint and compositional space. I have also held onto my process of working out visual ideas in series. I have yet to feel that I have exhausted an idea. At some point I move on, inventing a new vocabulary of forms, shapes, surface treatment, use, materials, reference, or any or all of these. 

My process flows most freely when I keep my work somewhere within the bounds of abstraction. Referencing, though never engaging representation to the point of realism, my work over the years has been interpretive to varying degrees. I like to search out relationships between the natural world and a more personal world of human experience. Often considering the wall as my compositional space, much of my work speaks as installation, spanning large spaces when these are available.