Aviva Duggan, daughter of late, celebrated artist Ann Singer, sees a tribute to her mother hosted at an art gallery as befitting of the honoree rather than a more traditional place of worship.
"My mom really was not a religious person," she said. "Her entire life was about her work and her art. I thought that this would be a perfect tribute to her. Everyone who knows her, when I've said that, have all said 'Oh my god, she would love that' and that this was the perfect thing to do."
Scheduled to be honored Oct. 16 at The Steeple Gallery in St. John, Singer was born in Czechoslovakia in 1927 and made her way to the States with her husband, Hungarian–born Leslie P. Singer, in 1952. The couple lived briefly in New York City before making their way to Indiana, residing first in Bloomington, then throughout Gary for more than a decade before settling in Crown Point in the early 70s.
A modern–minded painter, sculptor, furniture maker, jewelry maker and multimedia artist with hints of abstraction spread throughout much of her work, Singer created the majority of her art from the late 50s through the early 70s. She frequented galleries across the globe, counted universally acclaimed artists such as Sonia Delaunay and Victor Vasarely amongst her professional and personal peers and had her work shown in prestigious galleries worldwide.
Singer went against the grain of what was perceived as a women's role in society in the period she was most productive and forged ahead with her art despite suffering a loss of eyesight, starting in the 1960s.
"My mom was never intimidated by anything," Duggan said. "This is a woman who was absolutely determined to do what she wanted regardless of who said what. There was absolutely nothing that she couldn't accomplish in her life. She may have needed someone to be with to hold onto them to go places where she wasn't familiar, but she went everywhere and did everything."
Singer was diagnosed with dementia, then Alzheimer's disease in her later years. She died Aug. 2.
Duggan, 59, is the couple's only child. Residing in Holly, Mich., a small town between Flint and Detroit, Duggan designs engine subsystems for General Motors and will attend the Oct. 16 tribute.
"You have to view her artwork from a distance, especially her larger pieces," Duggan said of her mother's work. "She invoked with color what maybe you and I would maybe see and feel with a personality. ... people may look at (a piece of her art) and say 'Oh. That's scary.' But then they look at it for a while and it's no longer scary or disfiguring. It becomes emotional.
"For years, I could tell you what paintings were on what floor in the Louvre; that's how often we went," she added. "The Art Institute of Chicago was like my back door."
Samantha Dalkilic–Miestowski, founder and owner of The Steeple Gallery, was introduced to Singer and Duggan a little more than a decade ago when the mother and daughter were looking for a region gallery to represent Singer locally.
"I really liked how she was a pioneer and took risks at a time where woman artists really didn't do that type of work," Dalkilic–Miestowski said. "I think that being in the region and (in a) mostly working class (demographic), maybe she wasn't quite understood and accepted in those times. And that was the time where she was making her art. She took risks. She stuck to her guns. She created big, bold, powerful art that could be compared to what a man creates."
Over the years, Dalkilic–Miestowski has sold Singer pieces to private and public art collectors. Four of her sculptures were purchased by Lowell High School, three of which were chosen by their student body, for the school's corporate collection over the course of the last five years.
"The students chose the pieces because of their significance to the art world plus Ann's designs for the sculptures are perfect for the modern design of the school's architecture," said Thomas Sufana, Lowell High School fine arts department chairman. "We feel privileged to have these sculptures as part of our multicultural and multi-ethnic fine arts collection."
A PowerPoint presentation and lecture about Singer's life and work are scheduled for the Oct. 16 tribute along with a selection of more than 20 Singer pieces.
"I don't think anyone has seen a collection of her work (of this size) like the one we're going to be displaying," Duggan said. "I think it'll warm their heart when they see how much and how terrific she was."
"People are going to learn about her and be enlightened and see how important she was in her time period," Dalkilic–Miestowski added. "Her art is bold, it's colorful, It's timeless. It's real fine art."
Singer's works are slated to be on display at The Steeple Gallery through Nov. 30.
The Steeple Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment Sunday.