Born in White Plains, NY, 1953
Works in Red Hook, NY

Year created:
Big, with rift, Steven Siegel

Steven Siegel. Big, with rift. 2009. Paper and flora. 6'11" x 31'9" x 10'5".

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6'11" x 31'9" x 10'5"

Paper and flora
Newspaper Courtesy of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette
Exhibit Date: 
On View 2009 - 2020

Steven Siegel transforms familiar, everyday objects like newspapers, plastic bottles, and electronics into monumental sculptures to reflect on impermanence, temporality, and our vulnerability to the effects of time. For Big, with rift, created specifically for DeCordova, Siegel worked with 100 volunteers to stack and nail twenty-five cubic yards of printed newspaper. The sculpture is nestled in a natural recession in the landscape delineated by a stone wall that was at one time a building foundation. During the install, Siegel removed the native vegetation from the ground and transplanted it on the top of the sculpture, further integrating it into the ongoing history of the location.

Neatly folded and meticulously arranged in repeating layers, the exposed newspaper emulates the forms of geological strata and the sculpture functions as a sample of the earth’s stratified curst. At the same time, newspapers belong to our contemporary life as they record current events and document the world we live in. Yesterday’s newspapers become a symbol of the detritus of civilization, and in Siegel’s sculpture society’s remains are buried under earth and vegetation. The newspapers’ ultimate return to nature as they sc ulpture decomposes also echoes their material origins: trees. Thus, embodied in Siegel’s sculpture is a powerful cycle: the sprouting of life, its transformation by the hand of man, and its eventual reclamation to the forces of nature.

This sculpture was installed in 2009 and Siegel expected the construction to shift and change as the newspapers decayed, and the plant life continued to grow and consume the work. Most recently, the smaller structure of Big, with rift, has toppled over, buckling under the weight of decomposition. This evolutionary process literally gives the newspapers new life as they weather rain and other environmental effects and ultimately return to the soil.

In addition to an active studio practice, Siegel has installed site-specific work internationally, working on projects that involve consumer waste for over two decades. Recent installations by the artist are on view in Gong-Ju, Korea; Mirabel, Canada; the University of Wyoming Museum of Art, Laramie; and the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.

 Listen to Steven Siegel, Museum Guides Judi McCloskey and Ellen Sturtevant, and Oakmont Regional High School students talk about the sculpture and its installation process. (Read an audio transcript here.)