Numerous works by the artist Hilde Sigal adorn the walls of Copper Beech, functioning as talismans of the creative spirit. These works, along with the airy, bright space and the overall color palette of pale pink and greens, evoke what was the key inspiration for Copper Beech’s interior: the vintage artist’s studio.
Hilde is something of a permanent artist-in-residence for the store. In addition to being Dan Fink’s maternal grandmother, she was truly a woman of the 20th century.
Born to Jewish parents in Vienna, Austria, in 1925, she fled Nazi persecution with her family and arrived in the United States in 1938, at the age of thirteen. Hilde was attracted to art from a young age and in the postwar years she was able to go to the influential Art Students League in New York City, at a time when Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Lee Bontecou, Helen Frankenthaler, Eva Hesse, Roy Lichtenstein, and Donald Judd, among others, were also students there.
While Hilde was a part of this extraordinary generation of American artists, she did not live the same bohemian life or pursue art full-time—instead, she managed her husband’s medical practice and raised children in Bayside, Queens. Nevertheless she always found time for her studio practice.
In the 1970s she was able to turn her husband’s former medical clinic into a studio, where she continued to make her works. Copper Beech customers often comment on her witty and varied multimedia works; one favorite is the oil-painting portrait-collage of Hilde and her husband that she made three-dimensional with the addition of real tanning googles.
Hilde was also able to communicate and share her love of the art process with countless young students, by leading workshops as a beloved teacher at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA.
In her work as a teacher as well as her own practice, Hilde channeled a complete range of 20th-century techniques and ideas. Her projects include Joseph Cornell–like boxes, paintings with all the freedom of the Abstract Expressionists, nods to the currents of Pop Art, the surrealistic incorporation of found objects, as well as more traditional studio methods. All these works reflect her extraordinary life and are her ode to the spirit of 20th-century Modernism—and to the creative process itself.