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 17 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.
Scope and Contents:
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.
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)
Biographical / Historical:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
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Edwin Newman and William Hollingsworth Whyte. William H. Whyte speaks with Edwin Newman about city planning on Speaking Freely, circa 1970. Dorothy Gees Seckler Collection of Sound Recordings Relating to Art and Artists, 1962-1976. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.