Skip to main content

Dorothy Gees Seckler collection of sound recordings relating to art and artists, 1962-1976

Dorothy Gees Seckler collection of sound recordings relating to art and artists, 1962-1976

Seckler, Dorothy Gees, 1910-1994

Art historian

Collection Information

Size: 1.6 linear feet

Summary: The Dorothy Gees Seckler collection of sound recordings relating to art and artists measures 1.6 linear feet and dates from 1962 to 1976. Recordings include 20 interviews conducted by Seckler, one interview by John Jones, and 17 additional recordings of mostly contemporary art-related programs and interviews taped from radio and television broadcasts. Recordings are on 26 sound cassettes and 25 sound tape reels.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothy Gees Seckler (1910-1994) was an art historian from Bronxville, New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Provenance

The bulk of the collection, including the interviews with the Provincetown artists, was donated 1995 by Don Seckler, son of Dorothy Seckler. The source of acquisition for the Seckler interviews with the Woodstock artists is unknown.

Related Materials

Other related materials in the Archives' collections include several additional interviews conducted by Seckler for its oral history program, a full recording and transcript of the August 28, 1963 symposium on pop art, for which brief sound notes are found in this collection, and a transcript of the John Jones interview with George Segal in the John Jones interviews with artists collection, 1965 October 5-1965 November 12.

Funding

Funding for the transcription of Seckler's interviews with Provincetown artists was provided by Shirley Gorelick in 2014.

A Finding Aid to the Dorothy Gees Seckler Collection of Sound Recordings Relating to Art and Artists, 1962-1976, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.seckdoro
Author
Finding aid prepared by Megan McShea
Biographical/Historical note
Dorothy Gees Seckler was an art historian, critic, journalist, and artist active in New York City and Provincetown, Mass. Born Dorothy Elizabeth Gees in Baltimore, MD in 1910, she completed the program in Advertising Design at Maryland Institute College of Art in 1931 and was awarded a traveling scholarship upon graduation, which she used to study in Europe. She later received a masters degree from Columbia University in Art History and Art Education, and worked during World War II as head of an illustration unit in the Army's Judge Advocate General's office.
After the war, she worked at the Museum of Modern Art as an art historian in the education office until 1950, when she began writing for
ARTnews
magazine, reviewing New York gallery shows for its "Gallery Notes" section, and exploring painters' processes in the "Paints a Picture" series. She later served as contributing editor for
Art in America
from the late 1950s through the late 1960s, where her published work included features on Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Nevelson, as well as broad surveys of contemporary art such as "A Folklore of the Banal" (Winter 1962) and "Audience is His Medium" (February 1963). She taught at New York University and City College of New York, and wrote a long essay on the history of the Provincetown's art colony, published in
Art in America
in 1959, and later updated for the catalog for the 1977 exhibition
Provincetown Painters, 1890's - 1970's
. Between 1962 and 1968, she conducted thirty oral history interviews for the Archives of American Art and served as one of its manuscript collectors.
Throughout her career as a writer and critic, Seckler painted and worked in collage, and her work was shown in several Provincetown galleries, and in the Provincetown Art Center and Museum. She married Jerome Seckler in 1937 and they had one son. Seckler received the American Federation of Arts Award for outstanding writing in the field of American Art in 1952. She died in 1994.
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged in 3 series.
Series 1: Interviews with Artists, 1962-1976 (1 linear foot; Box 1)
Series 2: Broadcast Materials, 1962-1972 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 2-3)
Series 3: Photographs, 1967 (1 folder; Box 3)
Scope and Contents note
The Dorothy Gees Seckler collection of sound recordings relating to art and artists measures 1.6 linear feet and dates from 1962 to 1976. Recordings include 20 interviews conducted by Seckler, one interview by John Jones, and 17 additional recordings of mostly contemporary art-related programs and interviews taped from radio and television broadcasts. Recordings are on 26 sound cassettes and 25 sound tape reels.
Interviews with Artists consist of 17 interviews by Dorothy Seckler with artists including Elise Asher, Fritz Bultman, Judith Rothschild, Giorgio Cavallon, Marcia Marcus, Jean Cohen, William Freed, Lillian Orlowsky, Shirley Gorelick, Hans Hofmann, Wolf Kahn, Raoul Middleman, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Olin Orr, Larry Rivers, Alvin Ross, George Segal, Jean Tinguely, and Niki de Saint Phalle. Several interviews are with two subjects at once. Many of these interviews were conducted in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and are referenced in her introduction to the catalog for the exhibition
Provincetown Painters, 1890’s – 1970’s
held at the Everson Museum and the Provincetown Art Association in 1977, and several interviews were conducted as research for articles Seckler wrote and published in
Art in America
. Also found are group interviews on specific subjects, including an interview with Julio de Diego, Marion Greenwood, Fletcher Martin, and Anton Refregier on the Woodstock art colony, and with Sally Avery, Boris Margo, Jan Gelb, Margit Beck and others on Op Art. In September of 1966, Seckler recorded some of Andy Warhol’s
Exploding Plastic Inevitable
in Provincetown, which includes a performance by Nico and the Velvet Underground, as well as an interview with one of the band’s members, John Cale. A single interview conducted by John Jones of George Segal appears to have been copied by Seckler to prepare for her April 1966 interview of Segal.
Broadcast materials include sound recordings of television and radio broadcast programs taped off the air presumably by Seckler. Most programs are interviews, with subjects including Maxim Karolik, James Thomas Flexner, R. Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Alex Katz, Phillip Pearlstein, Roslyn Drexler, Barnet Newman, Saul Bellow, Ben Shahn, Marshall McLuhan, Isamu Noguchi, Andrew Wyeth, and William H Whyte. Other recordings include documentary programs related to contemporary art, book reviews, and a comedy performance with actor Peter Ustinov.
Photographs include 12 color slides from October of 1967 that appear to have been shot in Provincetown, Mass. Subjects include Dorothy Seckler and two other unidentified women.
Provenance
The bulk of the collection, including the interviews with the Provincetown artists, was donated 1995 by Don Seckler, son of Dorothy Seckler. The source of acquisition for the Seckler interviews with the Woodstock artists is unknown.
Separated Materials note
In 2012, several duplicates of recordings Seckler made for the Archives of American Art’s oral history program were removed from the collection including: Peter and Riva Dechar (1965 and 1967), David von Schlegell (1967), Joan Mitchell (1965), Theresa Schwartz (1965), Paul Burlin (1962), Ibram Lassaw (1964), Jack Tworkov (1962), Allan Kaprow (1968), Edwin Dickinson (1962), Nathan Halper (1963), Louise Nevelson (1964-1965), Karl Knaths (1962), and Stephen Greene (1968). Joan Mitchell's 1965 oral history interview remains with the Seckler collection because reel 2 of this recording also contains a discussion of optical art that belongs in the Seckler collection. The oral history interview has been digitized and is available through the Archives’ oral history program.
Related Archival Materials note
Other related materials in the Archives' collections include several additional interviews conducted by Seckler for its oral history program, a full recording and transcript of the August 28, 1963 symposium on pop art, for which brief sound notes are found in this collection, and a transcript of the John Jones interview with George Segal in the John Jones interviews with artists collection, 1965 Oct. 5-1965 Nov. 12.
Processing Information note
Sound tape reels from this collection were preserved digitally in 2011, as were sound cassettes in 2012, as part of larger audiovisual preservation projects at the Archives of American Art. Duplicates of interviews conducted for the Archives' oral history program were reomved from the collection at that time. Transcripts for Seckler's interviews with Provincetown artists were prepared by Jennifer Snyder in 2015, and the entire collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Megan McShea in 2015.

Additional Forms Available

All of the sound recordings in this collection were digitized for research access in 2011-2012 and are available at the Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the original reels for the archival notations on them, but original reels are not available for playback due to fragility. Digital transcripts of Seckler's interviews with Provincetown artists are available on the Archives of American Art's website.

In addition, a transcript of the John Jones interview with George Segal is available on microfilm reel 3949, available through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires and appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Dorothy Gees Seckler collection of sound recordings relating to art and artists, 1962-1976. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available