Evanston Artist’s New Exhibition Showcases 75 Years of Self-Portraits

For the first time, self-portraits of Evanston artist Leo Segedin are on display in a solo exhibition.

Segedin, 95, painted the self-portraits over the course of 75 years.

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“The past is my present, in my painting anyway,” Segedin said.  

Despite raising his family in Evanston for the last 50 plus years, Segedin’s work has always been rooted in his memories of growing up on the city’s West Side.

Age has forced Segedin to relocate his studio space at his home in Evanston from the top floor to the living room on the first floor, but his drive remains the same.

“What most artists do now is BS – pardon me. Since the beginning, my paintings have been about something, an important subject to me,” he said.  

Those subjects are now on display in an exhibit at Oakton Community College’s Koehnline Museum of Art.

As for Segedin’s favorite self-portraits?

“There’s one that used to hang here in my living room … I’ve seen it here every day, but when I saw it in the museum I said, ‘Wow did I do that?,’” he said. “One of the paintings in the show shows a kid with a helmet and an old man with a beard. That's me when I was 9 and wanted to be a pilot and thinking about what I wanted to be at 95. Now that I’m 95 I thought, ‘What did I think as a kid?’ That’s what the painting was about.”

With no help from a mirror, Segedin paints who he has always known himself to be, not necessarily who he sees.

“I have almost no memory of what I was thinking when I did them. I look at them and almost project the past into them,” he said.

Segedin says he doesn’t paint to please people, but hopes his work does. It’s for that reason that he doesn’t believe his style is describable.

“I don't think you can explain it in words. I don't think a visual image is translatable.”

There is something Segedin would like to see people take from his work.

“I want them to be aware of me as a person that lived for a long time and produced great works. It is a life, it’s not over yet. As long as I can, I will,” he said. “My advice to young people is do it while you can. The only material that’s irreplaceable is time.”

The portraits can be seen at the Oakton Community College Koehnline Museum of Art in Des Plaines through the end of this month. Segedin’s next exhibit is scheduled for next spring at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston.

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.

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