Esther Seidel (8.2.1964) studied sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara and has lived in Italy since then.
Her artistic background is figurative sculpture, to which she devotes herself as a stone sculptor and plastic artist. Already in her studies the human body is her main subject. Her central interest is the interaction of the inside and outside of a person, of body form and shape.
From her sculpting she develops a strong relation to materials and their specific qualities: Stone sculpture in marble, sculpture in terracotta, bronze casting with its many intermediate stages in wax, plaster, silicone, burned earth and finally bronze and its post-processing characterize the artist's manual and shaping skills.
Since the 1990s Esther Seidel has designed numerous public spaces with groups of bronze sculptures. These are characterized by the realistic representation of contemporary people. As life-size figures they are depicted with all the attributes of everyday appearance, especially current clothing. As they are always placed directly on the level of the pedestrians, they enter into a direct visual and haptic dialogue with the viewers.
Beginning around the year 2000, she contraposes her sculptural works with textile embroidery pictures. In these portraits, she leads her figures back from their three-dimensional physicality into two-dimensional images. To do this, she first dissolves their image through graphic screening, transfers this onto a fabric and then condenses it again through embroidery with wool threads. This textile moment interacts with small and medium sized sculptures of this period, in which she increasingly forms the figures' clothing with real fabrics. The clothing as the second skin of the individuals, and as their own design features, detaches itself from the sculpture and thus becomes an independent subject. Since then, her sculptural work has meant on the one hand shaping human beings as individual bodies, and on the other hand covering them with textiles that provide the external protection of the persons.
The focus on textile art increased in the following years. Esther Seidel became particularly interested in the material qualities of the fabrics, their tactile and chromatic properties as well as their processing and assembly. Since the middle of the 2010th, this has sometimes led to the physical body, apart from the bust, dissolving completely in the textile and the figures becoming more than life-size.
In terms of content, her search for expressions of the duality of individual, inner worlds on the one hand, and, on the other hand, for the universal questions of meaning of being, is intensified. In her works, she transcends her own inner experience to the all-embracing outer cosmos against the background of biographical and personal questions. She is particularly interested in the phenomenon of universal love and the protection of people and their existence by cosmic forces. To illustrate this, she consistently focuses on her own self-relation, presenting herself as the personification of a Madonna figure in the cosmos, representing and symbolizing the key position that each individual occupies between physical-earthly existence and the transcendental-metaphysical world. In order to illustrate this connection, she also refers to a variety of religious symbols and in some cases uses textile artefacts of liturgical origin. The result are large-format wall hanging textile pictures, as collages and assemblages, with motifs that allow a variety of associations with traditional religious art while nevertheless being completely innovative, high-quality works of art in terms of both craftsmanship and symbolism.
The experience of a world too full of interior spaces, too furnished by the futile and banal, is typical of the man and woman of the 20th and 21st century. It was Walter Benjamin who spoke of "furnished man" to understand the colonization of inner space by objects and images that literally left no room to reflect, to be alone, to think. The inner space is so colonized by unrelated "things" that it is difficult for us to find a moment for that penetrating and profound solitude from which artistic inspiration or philosophical intuition is born; even when we are alone the world penetrates us, not with the legitimate need for sociality and socialization (so we are never completely alone because the whole world is reflected within us) but with a cumbersome and unwanted presence. We are inhabited by the world and this makes it difficult for us to inhabit it in a proper and complete sense.
So we need a pedagogy of empty spaces as a preliminary operation of an education of the soul; we need subjects to be trained to create within themselves what we call white holes, that is, fragments of interiority that we save from siege, rectangles of meaning and self that we take away from the dictatorship of a world that furnishes us inside. If we need to educate ourselves to create our own white holes, however, it is true that there is no white hole inside us if there are no spaces and times of disengagement outside. It is by searching for or creating white holes in your day and in your living and working environment that you can create the conditions for an inner spiritual void.
The concept of inside/outside of the soul is the common thread of all Esther Seidel's artistic research. The outside of the soul can be identified as the appearances of the everyday world in which contemporary men and women are immersed and become the privileged subject of the artist's sculptures and embroideries: the people of our time, us, yourselves, considered in the relationship with the existential condition, with the liveable space, of relationship, but even more, or, even better, with the inner space, psychic, with the intimate pulsating ànemos, the inside of the soul that urges in the body, tends its expressive surface, dictates the time of action, the reflexive stasis, the dynamics, the gesture. A single existential sphere that dialogues with the inside and the outside that is realized in space thanks to the material worked and used by the artist's needs.
Esther Seidel was born from the classical sculpture learned from the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara, a heavy and slow technique that totally took her life and her body, during and immediately after her pregnancy she rediscovered the fascination of photography and the use of the computer and collecting the threads of her life she met wool, fabric and silk. The desire to carry out this feminine work allowed her to be always close to her child, rediscovering that freedom that stimulated the experimentation of her artistic research. From this union, sculpture and embroidery, stone and fabric, bronze and wool, visions that brought Esther back to her beginnings in sculpture and allowed her to express her emotions in art in a new way. Therefore her various artistic attitudes dialogue together, forming a single great gesamtkunstwerk that encompasses the work of a part of her life.
Seidel's sculpture warns and communicates the threat of the reduction of living space and the contraction of psychological space with extraordinary immediacy, and not only in its most distorted and painful inflections, but in a truly surprising variety of situations, points of view (and listening) that now exalt matter, the imposition of physicality, of corporeity as architecture in space, now the communicative tension in strong expressionist scans or even in intensely neo-baroque movements, now imposes the articulation of a gesture that activates the space/environment, now a light that seems to intervene to walk, smooth, taper the surfaces, reducing the mass, the weight, the 'armor' and guiding the perception more and more explicitly towards the 'core', the innermost, secret nucleus, the inside of the soul.
In her works today, the artist rediscovers the slowness that is typical of sculpture and that she loved so much, but no longer the heaviness given predominantly by what were for her the large dimensions due to the private commissions that were the basis of her work. The repetition of the gesture with needle and thread, so humble but at the same time profound and meditative, became her bond of emotional communication to bring the various techniques to life in a single expression that takes shape from experience.
The idea of proposing a video within the exhibition stems from Esther Seidel's continuous desire to experiment with new techniques and technologies, in particular to insert her private life (the inside of the soul) in what becomes thanks to art a public space where to show herself. The video entitled "Autor de la lune" is a synthesis of what was said before: sculpture with time leaves space for photography from which the embroidery is born, embroidery returns to sculpture forming a synthesis of her artistic research or rather of her 'making art'. All this is shown to the viewer of the exhibition thanks to the video that becomes the 'sum' of all the techniques in one, the steps that led to see today, in the site-specific project for the Green House of the Fondazione La Versiliana, all the work of the artist.