Robert Seydel, director of programming at the PRC from 1992 to 1997 and an associate professor of visual art at Hampshire College, died yesterday in Amherst. His colleague, former PRC executive director John Jacob, offered the following reminiscence and comments about Seydel.
Dear Friends of the PRC,
I am deeply saddened to write to you of the death of Robert Seydel, of a massive heart attack, while preparing for his classes at Hampshire College yesterday morning.
Robert and I came to the PRC at the same time, in the early 1990s. During a period of financial crisis soon after our arrival, there came a day when we were its last two employees. Standing together in its darkened galleries, we conceived of a plan to save the PRC, with Robert taking on the curatorial responsibilities and me the administrative. Enlisting the support of artists and community members, as well as celebrities such as Dennis Hopper and Patti Smith, Robert organized a visionary program for the PRC while I negotiated forgiveness for its debts. A new organization, with a square green logo and a growing focus on the region, emerged. During the years that followed, Robert and I never tired of marveling at our unlikely success.
A truly gentle man, after leaving the PRC Robert found his calling as a teacher at Hampshire College. There, his colleague Sandra Matthews has written to me, “Robert had a deep impact on so many people; he was such a completely unique and amazing person and a phenomenal teacher.” Robert was also exceedingly modest, perhaps most of all about his artistic talents. He presented an exhibition of excerpts from his Book of Saul at the Cue Art Foundation, New York, in 2007, and his untimely death precedes by months the publication of his Book of Ruth; both projects had engaged him for many years. About his work Robert wrote:
Art, as creation and as sign of primary Imagination, is not objects but a state, a kind of fluid. It is revelation of a sort that both objects and figures are the excess of… The wind is what comes through, barely glued down, sign of what maker here.
Robert was a cherished work-mate and a dear friend. His passing is a loss to me and my family; to his students and colleagues among whom he was beloved; and to the community, for and about whom his hesitant voice expressed an extraordinary graciousness and wisdom.
A local article about Seydel’s death can be found here. Leslie Brown published the following writing by Seydel, with a brief bio attached, in conjunction with her 2006 exhibition PRC P.O.V.: Photography Now and the Next 30 Years link.
Click here for a link to the CUE Art Foundation web site featuring Seydel’s statement about his Book of Saul project.