Elayne Seaman, a Fine Artist and Champion for the Arts

By Diane Salzberg with Cornelia Seckel’s appreciation and full agreement.

Elayne Seaman

Elayne Seaman

When a very talented artist becomes a great motivator, social activist, and community leader, a special recognition must be given here at Art Times. This amazing contributor to the arts and to humanity also happens to be an old friend. Elayne Seaman, living in Poughkeepsie (Hudson Valley), New York, is such a person.

A Selection of works showing her passion for detail in incised paintings of nature and man-made objects is currently on display at Vassar College.

When Elayne Seaman observes the world around her, it’s the details that intrigue and thrill her. “If you look closely at a piece of cloth,” Seaman says, “you not only see the lines, you can feel how the many strands were woven together to make a whole. If you look at a flower, you can trace its curves and edges and sense its structure.” Seaman finds deep pleasure in precisely capturing such intricate patterns and foundations in her fine-lined drawings and paintings.  She explains, “I think everything you do creatively in visual art, whether it’s representational or abstract, begins with the understanding of line.  I’ve always seen the world in lines, and that is what fascinates me.”

Elayne was introduced to scratchboard, paper board coated with porcelain, and knew she had found her medium. Traditionally, the artist covers the white board with black ink, and then draws with a sharp-pointed stylus, cutting away the black to reveal the white, and creating an incised or etched surface. Seaman says that she loved that she was drawing into rather than onto the surface. “I immediately felt that this was the technique in which I could create the exquisite lines I perceived all around me. Working with a sharp implement, such as a needle-point burnisher or a scimitar -shaped Exacto blade, gives the work three-dimensionality; the incising is sculptural.  I find much more enjoyment in drawing this way; it’s almost like constructing the object. It’s wonderfully tactile.”

Scratchboard by Elayne SeamanElayne and husband Hal have been married 67 wonderful years. In the 1970’s they had the unique opportunity to live and work in Paris where Elayne was invited to join the prestigious American Women’s Group. She worked at Stanley Hayter’s lithography studio (primarily in black and white) then later began a love of water color washes and highly detailed pen and ink work. Her work was soon represented by a Parisian gallery. Once back in the U.S. two galleries in New York City represented her work. Elayne also opened the Seaman Studio Gallery, in her home, and represented 7 women artists. The venture proved successful and soon grew to 35 artists; a co-op was formed. This group, named Summergroup for many years, now known since 2007 as Longreach Arts exhibits extensively throughout the Hudson Valley and soon celebrates its 35th Anniversary.

Elayne’s interests always extended beyond that of the studio. While she and Hal, her proud and super supportive partner, lived again briefly in France they returned in 1982 whereupon Elayne was chosen as the Executive Director of the Mid-Hudson Arts and Science Center. She served on the Eleanor Roosevelt board of directors, as President as well as its Executive Director, and also designed the famous medal that has been awarded to individual leaders, both locally and from around the world. Elayne was also a recipient of this prestigious medal. In addition, she received the Marist College President’s Award, Chaired the Education Committee for the World Affairs Council, helped start the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum (Poughkeepsie), served on the Mill Street Loft Board of directors and was also a recipient of their Friend of the Arts Award, as well as the Dutchess County Executive Arts Award.

Elayne Seaman, artist, visionary, community leader and wonderful friend continues to leave a fabulous legacy. Visit this delightful show if you possibly can!

The Joy in Detail: The Incised Paintings of Elayne Seaman: a Retrospective
At the College Center, Vassar College
James W. Palmer Gallery
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 12604
For hours or travel info, 845-437-5370

Exhibit will run through Thursday March 16

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