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George Segal's Gay Liberation  
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The Artist

Segal took the criticisms from the radical groups in stride. Jokingly acknowledging himself as "an unregenerate heterosexual," he continued to insist that such a condition did not "prevent him from having an insight into the natures of my gay friends."

Segal, who was born on November 26, 1924 in New York City, was actually an obvious choice to design a monument to "Gay Liberation." By the time of the commission, he had become America's leading sculptor of public monuments and memorials. Besides, as Voeller remarked at one meeting, all the gay and lesbian artists of comparable stature, most of them deeply closeted, had turned down the commission.

Moreover, Segal had already demonstrated an unusual sensitivity in the depiction of lesbian couples in works such as "Lovers on a Bed I" (1976) and "The Girl Friends" (1969).

Segal was educated at Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, New York University, and Rutgers University. He earned an early reputation as a painter, but in the 1960s he turned to sculpture, using plaster casts of individuals--often friends and neighbors--to create life-like mannequins.

Associated with the pop artists of the 1960s, he created sculptures of ordinary people placed in everyday environments. His works are familiar in their subject matter and form, yet haunting in their ghostly stillness. In installations such as "The Subway" (1968) or "The Diner" (1964-1968) or "Walk, Don't Walk" (1976), he manages to convey interior feelings of loneliness and isolation, while also discovering the miracles of daily life.

Early in his career Segal avoided bronze, believing that it was too inert to achieve the expressive quality he sought. However, in 1971, with The Dancers, he developed a technique known as double-casting that used both plaster and bronze. In this technique, molten metal is poured into the interior of a plaster cast, reproducing in great detail the texture of skin and clothing. Using double-casting, he was able to create realistic, life-like figures that were also durable enough to function as permanent, outdoor, public art.

As a result of this process, "Gay Liberation" is at once literally "monumental" and intimate. It captures the ordinariness of the human interaction between the lovers, yet it also freezes the interaction in time and space and art. Hence, the sculpture underlines its important point about the humanity of the lovers, yet it does so simply and naturally by means of the intimacy it both captures and replicates.

Among Segal's other monuments are "In Memory of May 4, 1970: Abraham and Isaac" (1978), a memorial of the Kent State University slayings; the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial (1983); and sculptures for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D. C. (1997).

Segal died from complications of cancer on June 9, 2000.

Claude J. Summers

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arts >> Overview:  Patronage II: The Western World since 1900

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arts >> Overview:  Pop Art

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arts >> Barcelona Monument

The gay monument in Barcelona, dedicated in March 2011, commemorates the sufferings of glbtq people.

arts >> Homomonument

Amsterdam's Homomonument is one of the world's foremost public memorials acknowledging the persecution endured by gay men and lesbians during World War II and throughout history.

arts >> The Legacy Walk (Chicago)

The Legacy Walk in Chicago is an outdoor history museum that reclaims and celebrates glbtq contributions to world history and culture.

social sciences >> Voeller, Bruce

American activist and scientist Bruce Voeller was a leader in both the gay rights movement and the fight against AIDS.


Breshears, Gene. "Art Imitates . . . ." Sans Fig Leaf: Occasional Thoughts on Life, the Universe, and Everything.

"George Segal: American Still Life."

Hunter, Sam, and Don Hawthorne. George Segal. New York: Rizzoli, 1984.

Hunter, Sam. George Segal. New York: Rizzoli, 1989.

Lindsey, Daryl. "George Segal." (June 12, 2000):

Saslow, James. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1999.


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: George Segal's Gay Liberation  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2003  
    Date Last Updated October 23, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2003, glbtq, inc.  


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