“In my music series,
I paint what I hear.
In the flower series,
I paint what I see.”

Lou Reed

Laurie Anderson

Philip Glass

Yo Yo Ma

Annie Lennox

“I have always painted
to music in the
background, but this time
I found myself actually
painting the music,
painting what I heard.”

Tammra Sigler
art & music

by Julie Clay

IT'S NOT UNCOMMON to hear music wafting out of artist Tammra Sigler’s Naples studio. It’s also a sure sign that she’s having a creative moment. She remembers when the music took over, “I have always painted to music in the background, but this time I found myself actually painting the music, painting what I heard.” She recalls early on wanting to use the dirtiest music she could think of, which at the time was Lou Reed.

“He’s so without borders and uncensored. I put on the music, then drew everything I heard.” She continues, “I would listen to one song on a loop and let it generate the print. When the print was done then I would move to the next song/painting. After Lou Reed, I moved on to Laurie Anderson. The next year I painted to Philip Glass, inspired by the ballet that I had seen at the Phil, ‘In the Upper Room.’ There were nine dances in the Twyla Tharp ballet and I made nine prints, four of which were selected last year for the Florida Contemporary exhibit at Artis-Naples.” She’s also completed a music series of Yo Yo Ma performing Bach’s “Unaccompanied Cello”, which is available on note cards in the Artis-Naples gift shop.

Her newest exhibit, running January 8-30 at Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, showcases Tammra’s musical inspiration in very contemporary abstract works. Included are the pieces ‘I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons’ and a couple inspired by the band Fun., ‘We are Young – Fun’ and ‘Out on the Town – Fun.”

With over 50 years of artistic experience, the showcase is, as Tammra puts it, quite the eclectic collection. “This show ranges from 2007’s flower series to my newest work of 2015, which actually incorporates torn paper, she says. “I typically paint in series, and I have different things going on in my work. The work changes but my mark stays the same. What you get visually is different,” adding that her latest works incorporate the use of Sharpies, ushering in a change in attitude.

“There’s quite a range from work more accessible and recognizable to pieces that are totally abstract. In my music series, I paint what I hear. In the flower series, I paint what I see. It gives you kind of 180 degrees of the visual experience. The energy or enthusiasm for my materials stays the same.” Tammra’s latest venture, featured in her exhibition at the Alliance, is three-dimensional, where she’s drawn or printed on paper, then torn it up and recreated it into a paper sculpture.

A good number of Ms. Sigler’s works are monotype/drawings utilizing the aforementioned paper, a high quality archival cotton that is soft enough to be flexible and weighted, almost like a towel. This technique involves the collaboration of a printmaker who is present and ready to transfer her paintings as soon as they’re complete. This way the oil paints that she uses will transfer successfully before they start to dry.

“I do my prints in Baltimore at Towson University. These are monotypes, which are one of a kind singular prints.” She explains, “I work on a plexi plate, and paint with oils directly on it. I tell the printmaker I’m ready, and she prepares the paper with water. It’s gorgeous heavy cotton paper. She soaks it in a tub, then dries it with towels and a rolling pin to just damp. Then she takes my plate and sets it on the press bed, very carefully setting the now very flexible paper over the plate. She then covers it with felt blankets and turns the wheel, sending the bed under the press rollers. It comes out the other side and the image from the plate is pressed into the paper. Now the paint has been transferred. This is also called a monoprint.”

Some of Tammra’s works are the result of what is known as ‘ghost prints,’ or the second or third print from an original plate.

Another important factor in this process is the printmaker’s personality. Tammra describes her collaboration with the printmaker as one where that person really has to set aside their personal taste in order to share and support her vision, adding that a good printer has to have a certain selflessness. Most of the works featured in January’s exhibition were created using this technique.

Inspiration also comes from within. Tammra recalls, “I was driving to the press and deciding what I was going to print. I never know what I’m going to do until I face the paper. The first thing I asked myself was, ‘What is the essential quality of my prints?’ The prints are very clean and pristine. My work is very organic, but the printing and final statement are precise and clean.”

Tammra’s skill and talents are the product of many years’ experience. Working as a professional artist and teacher for the better part of 50 years, her career began in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, where Tammra earned her BFA with honors in painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art after attending Syracuse University’s School of Fine Arts in New York State. Her work was noticed in a show not long after graduating by one of Baltimore’s top galleries, and her career has taken off ever since.

Tammra humbly admits that she was very lucky, but it has to be more than luck to have your work featured in permanent collections in museums such as the National Women in the Arts Museum in Washington, DC and Baltimore Museum of Art, as well as numerous private and corporate collections around the world. Her works have been featured in exhibitions at many Naples studios, including The von Liebig Art Center, where she teaches classes in expressionistic painting.

And now there are hives. As in beehives, Tammra’s latest artistic exploration. “I consider myself a ‘mark maker’ when I draw,” she admits. “I became interested in how many small particles can make up a whole.” She took an interest in the massive and changing forms birds make when they fly. ‘Swarms and Swamps,’ Tammra’s first Florida painting (featured in the Alliance exhibition) is her exploration of that concept. She adds, “It is probably my first painting that actually deals with Florida imagery, per se.” The swarms grew into hives and a new direction for her paintings. She found these hives represented in the news as well.

“I was watching the horrible thing in San Bernardino. The policemen were huddled, making their own ‘hive.’ she notes, adding, “I’m sure there’s no one else in the world thinking like that! I think and see abstractly.”

Tammra recalls, “When I was a student of 18 or 19 I’d go to the paint store for new tubes of paint. I’d buy the three colors that I needed. Then I would ask myself, ‘What is the most obnoxious color you see here?’ And I’d buy it and make it work.”

Another source of inspiration are the quotes Tammra collects and posts on the wall in her studio. She explains, “Because I teach I share them a lot with my students. One of them that really describes my attitude is from the actor, Christopher Walken, ‘First I figure out what I have to do; then I do the opposite.’ I think I’ve been doing that my whole painting life.”

Her studio lessons are a bit out of the ordinary as well. Tammra acknowledges, “Come by my classes when the garage door is open, six easels are set up, music is blasting, and my model is dancing out in the back driveway!” Now there’s a picture... •

January-February 2016