Beloved artist and teacher Connie Smith Siegel lived and worked in the town of Woodacre in Marin County’s San Geronimo Valley for more than 40 years before her death on August 4 at age 83. Siegel was a popular figure in the North Bay art world, and her landscape paintings have been widely admired and exhibited locally for decades.
This weekend, Marin County gathers virtually to remember and celebrate Siegel’s life and art during a Zoom memorial service hosted by the San Geronimo Valley Community Center on Sunday, Nov 15, at 4pm.
Born on April 20, 1937, in Colorado Springs, Siegel received her MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1962, and her work in art and teaching took her to places like Amarillo College in Texas and eventually to California in 1975, where Siegel taught at the California Institute of Integral Studies and JFK University in addition to teaching private workshops and classes at her home and other venues such as Sonoma State University, UC Santa Cruz, and Esalen Institute.
Siegel’s work is in the permanent collections of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, as well as Hastings College of the Law and the Oakland Museum. In her life, Siegel also exhibited at Dominican College, Marin Art Festival, William Sawyer Gallery and John F. Kennedy University among other venues.
Throughout her career, Siegel connected art to the community and encouraged art as a healing practice. For much of her life, Siegel created art through Sensory Awareness, in which our own senses and awareness of our surroundings informs our behavior and psychology.
As such, Siegel was a landscape painter who imbued her works with a “spirit of place.” Siegel often painted outdoors across Marin and Sonoma County, and she traveled widely to find beautiful natural settings that she could transform into lively paintings done in oil, acrylic or pastel. Each spring, Siegel could be found drawing in the San Geronimo Valley, and each fall she would pack her camper and paint in the Sierras.
Sensory Awareness also became the basis for Siegel’s teaching methods and her books The Spirit of Drawing, The Spirit of Color and The Healing Spirit of Drawing and Color. In addition to her art and her teaching, Siegel was a fierce environmental activist as well as a champion for peace. Her art was used in anti-nuclear protests in the ’80s and she worked with the pioneers in movement and expressive therapy, practiced Buddhist meditation and studied Nonviolent Communication.
Siegel’s ability to create community often manifested in projects like the Artist Potluck Group of local creatives who regularly met to share and critique their art, and her exhibitions often featured opening receptions that incorporated musicians and poets performing alongside her paintings.
Most recently, Siegel held two retrospective shows just before the Covid-19 pandemic, one at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center and one at Toby’s Gallery in Point Reyes Station.
Those who wish to remember Siegel can RSVP now for the Nov. 15 online memorial service, and there will also be a “Connie Day” on a number of Marin nonprofit art organizations’ social media pages on Friday, Nov. 13. Visitors to the online memorial can make donations in Siegel’s name to the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, Marin Open Studios, West Marin Senior Services, or Hospice by the Bay.