Connie Smith Siegel hiking with art supplies.

Connie Smith Siegel

April 20, 1937 – August 4, 2020

Connie was a working artist and teacher for over forty years. She exhibited her work in galleries and museums throughout the country and taught drawing, painting, and color at numerous universities and colleges, including the University of California, Santa Cruz, the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and the Arts and Consciousness Department at John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley, California. She was the rotating department head and associate professor at the University of Colorado, Denver Center. Siegel’s studies in meditation and personal development include long-term study in Sensory Awareness and experience in Buddhist mediation, Gestalt therapy, expressive art therapy, and intensive studies in movement, poetry, and sound. She lived in Woodacre, California.

Connie Smith Siegel Obituary

Connie Smith Siegel, landscape painter, educator, and leader in the field of art and healing, died August 4. She was a resident of Woodacre, CA for over 40 years. Born April 20, 1937, in Colorado Springs, she was raised by her mother Josephine Smith. She received her MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1962, and first taught Art and Art History at Amarillo College in Texas.  She went on to become a tenured Associate Professor and the first woman Chair of the Art Department at the University of Colorado, Denver. Connie moved to California in 1975 and taught at the California Institute of Integral Studies and JFK University. She gave private workshops and classes at her home and other venues for 35 years and was a visiting artist/teacher at Sonoma State, UC Santa Cruz, and Esalen Institute.
In 1966 Connie’s life was transformed by discovering the practice of Sensory Awareness in a workshop led by Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks, on Monhegan Island, Maine, where she had gone to draw.  It was there she met her husband of 20 years, psychologist Leon Siegel. For decades Connie attended SA workshops and study groups, incorporating the practice into her teaching methodology. She was President of the Sensory Awareness Leaders Guild from ’88 –’92.  With Leon, Connie created an expressive process combining Drawing and Color with Sensory Awareness to explore decisions, challenges, and issues of healing. This self-guidance process became the core of Connie’s teaching, and inspiration for writing 3 her books: The Spirit of Drawing, The Spirit of Color, and Creating Peace: The Healing Spirit of Drawing and Color. Connie believed deeply in the healing nature of art, and that art-making belongs to everyone.  Perhaps her greatest hope was that the process she developed would live on, helping people to heal, connect with nature, and find their artistic selves.
Connie Smith Siegel was a prolific and dedicated fine artist, a landscape painter recognized for her “spirit of place.” She had mastered many techniques and media and had a profound knowledge of Art History.  She painted outdoors across Marin and Sonoma, and traveled widely to find beautiful vistas and scenes to transform into lively plein air canvases in oil, acrylic, or pastel. Each October she drove her campervan to the Sierras to capture the radiance of the golden aspen. In the Spring she could be found drawing the blossoming plums in the San Geronimo Valley. She was intrepid in her explorations of hills, trees, mountains, deserts, streams and coast.  Her work was featured in many solo and group exhibits and is represented in many collections, including the Achenbach Foundation at the Palace of Legion of Honor, SF Int’l Airport, and the Oakland Museum. She was represented by William Sawyer Gallery in SF and Robert Allen Fine Art in Sausalito.  With help from friends, Connie held two retrospective shows just before the pandemic, at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center and at Toby’s Gallery in Point Reyes Station.
Connie was a Peace and environmental activist, a founding member of Artists for Social Responsibility. Her landscape banners, with quotes from Helen Caldecott and Chief Seattle, were used in anti-nuclear protests in the ’80’s. Connie was a life-long learner in Consciousness and Intuitive Studies, Expressive Arts, Dance, and Poetry. She worked with the pioneers in movement and expressive therapy – Anna Halprin, Gabrielle Roth, Natalie Rogers, John Fox, and others. Connie practiced Buddhist meditation with Tibetan, Zen and Insight teachers for 25 years. She was a longtime student of Nonviolent Communication. She was a member of the ‘Artist Potluck Group’ – local artists who met to share and critique their art. She championed the work of others, and the Potluck group exhibited together as a result of her tireless efforts. Connie created and celebrated community, with her enthusiasm for the arts and her welcoming, inclusive way of being. Her receptions often incorporated musicians improvising to the art and poets reading. She was a vibrant and devoted dancer well into her 80’s.
Connie is survived by cousins Sue Harrington and Robert Harrington of Colorado Springs. She leaves behind many devoted friends, colleagues, students and creative collaborators. A special thanks to Faye Chang and the caregivers at Long Life Living, as well as many other helpers this past year. An online Memorial will be held in a Zoom Memorial, Sunday, November 15, 2020, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm PST.  For information about date, time and link, please send an email to conniesmithsiegel@gmail.com.  Donations in Connie’s name can be made to the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, Marin Open Studios, West Marin Senior Services, or Hospice by the Bay.

Connie Smith Siegel hiking with art supplies.

I see you
in the silver fog
that shreds the summer blue.
I see you
in the blue-green water
streaming white on darkened rocks.
I draw your blue
and green and white
until it fits the inside
of my hand,
until your light burns
right through me, onto
paper, canvas, anything that
catches light and holds it.

I ask only for reflections,
and to ride
the wild blue horses
with the night.
On their backs
the gold stars, shining,
light the shadows
of our lives.

– Connie Smith Siegel