Ilene Segalove was born and raised in Los Angeles. She came of age during the second-wave of feminism, a time when Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique” became a bestseller and the media, television specifically, played an ever-present role in the lives of Americans. An avid consumer of television, Segalove received regular doses of popular culture via sitcoms and commercial breaks that repeatedly aired during television programming. She took this love of television and the notion that art can be made from the things of life when she embarked on her education in fine arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1968. While studying there she met Billy Adler and John Margolies, who were collaborators and professors of Ilene, and introduced her to the concept that one’s personal narrative could be strong material for art. She collaborated with them in a project called Telethon, a work in which they interviewed others about their personal experiences in relation to anthropological models, recorded it, and presented it in the University gallery as an installation made up of a living room with sofas, TV dinners and a television. But Segalove's first introduction to video was through her sculpture professor, Roland Brenner. Other early influences in using the medium of video included Wolfgang Stoerchle, then a graduate student at UCSB who later taught at CalArts, and the curator David Ross who had come from New York and was to launch the most comprehensive video exhibition in the coming years.
Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1972, she purchased a Sony PortaPak from Naim June Paik’s girlfriend, which she learned to use by continuously setting up scenarios and videotaping different aspects of her life. During this time she returned to Los Angeles and began taking classes with John Baldessari at CalArts. He encouraged Segalove to continue working with collage and found or appropriated photographs and reconstructing photographs from popular culture. While there she met David Salle, Robert Longo, and Wolfgang Stoerchle, with whom she shared ideas and entered into one another’s works in some form or another. During this time Segalove made Today’s Program: Jackson Pollack, “Lavendar Mist,” 1950, 1974, Gifts/I Love You/Bel Air Menthol, 1975, and If You Live Near Hollywood, You Can’t Help But Look Like Some 8x10 Glossy, 1976. Each one of these works entailed appropriating existing imagery and collaging it, using it as is, or restaging it in such a way that shows our internalization of the message that the media was selling us.
In addition to working with Baldessari and found imagery, she was also exposed to the ideas germinating in the Feminist Art Program at CalArts. One of the tenets espoused by women in this program was that the “personal is political” and that all women should embrace this fundamental idea because their stories, the ones that they lived, mattered. Although Segalove had already trained her camera on the personal, hearing this only reinforced that what she was doing was important. In Mother’s Treasures, 1974, she sequences a series of photographs of her mother sitting on the patio showing different works of art that Segalove had made throughout her childhood. These works included captions that told the story of her life in art through her mother’s eyes, her success and failures, and admonishments for not dating them and sometimes not even putting her name on them. The irony in this account foretells what was soon to be unleashed in the mother/daughter relationship that Segalove interrogated throughout her early career as an artist.
Within a year of completing her bachelor’s degree, Segalove began a graduate program in Communication Arts at Loyola Marymount University earning her master’s degree in 1975. Throughout this program she honed the techniques of writing, directing and producing primarily for commercial output, but nonetheless transferred these newly minted tools into making video art. She also met Hildegarde Duane around this time and they began to use each other as subjects or actors in each of their works. The two women shared a similar aesthetic and sentiment about artists using the media of video and photography to tell the stories of what it was like to be a woman in those days. During this time, The Mom Tapes, 1974-1978, in which Segalove trained her camera on her mother and their relationship, began to take shape. She was utilizing the interviewing strategies that she had learned while making Telethon and employing the new techniques acquired in the commercial television program at Loyola. Another foray into the personal life of Segalove occurs in Secret Places, 1977, in which she photographs and prints so darkly that it is almost not discernible, places where she hid, lived and loved. Despite tapping into the personal, Segalove always infused her work with humor and irony. The humor and irony stems from her childhood desire to become a cartoonist and has said that it informed her narrative style and interest in commenting on popular culture. According to her gallerist Tom Jancar, other influences that had a direct impact on her video work include the satirical voices found in Mad Magazine and the work of William Hogarth and Honore Daumier.
By the late 70s Segalove had hit her stride employing irony with ease in works such as US Treasury Nose, 1979 and TV is OK, 1979, but soon the irony begins to cut deeper in works like The Riot Tapes: A Personal History, 1984, and Female Fragments, 1987. In these works she addresses the personal directly by discussing her early experiences with sex, drugs, politics, and relationships, even so personal as to identify why her then boyfriend committed suicide, and then having to get mammograms because she has reached that age. But these works are soon tempered by a lighter version of a childhood crush in a text piece titled Kenny, 1987. During this time she was drawn into audio recording and made two works, Appliances and Bodyparts, both from 1986, which allowed her to recount her stories without any visuals at all. These were pure audio narratives, sometimes including brief interviews emulating the vox populi, that forged her segue into radio where she was a commentator on National Public Radio for several years. Despite this shift into audio works, she continued creating visual works that became increasingly complex with clusters of images layered one on top of the other and sometimes interspersed with text. These include Home Entertainment Center, 1987, Amnesia, 1990, and Turn to Appendix, 1990.
Under the direction of Charles Desmarais, the Laguna Art Museum organized a retrospective of Segalove’s work in 1990 titled Ilene Segalove: Why I Got Into TV and Other Stories, which did an excellent job of contextualizing much of the work that she had made since the 70s. This exhibition included original collages, photographs, photomontages, installations, video and audio works and a catalogue with essays by Charles Desmarais and Lowell Darling. A few years after the retrospective, Segalove began to make large-scale works she called wall works and even embarked on doing a text based mural on the outside wall of a gallery. Shortly thereafter she turned towards manipulating imagery and text in Photoshop as the new medium was just beginning to be utilized by fine artists.
For about a decade in the mid 90s and into the new millennium Segalove took a hiatus from making art and focused on writing books. In 1996 she co-authored a best-selling book titled List Your Self, 1996, which is both an earnest and ironic nod to the conceptual practice of making lists ad infinitum. She made a turn back into the art world in 2008 when she was included in the Getty Center’s California Video exhibition and 2009 with her solo exhibition at Jancar Gallery in Los Angeles. It was here that art collector Dean Valentine became acquainted with her work and began to understand how her gallerist Tom Jancar could claim that she was the “missing link” between the artists of Baldessari’s generation and that of The Pictures Generation. Within a year, Valentine curated a show of her work at Andre Rosen Gallery in New York touting her as standing “halfway between Martha Rosler and Cindy Sherman.”
Thus was Segalove’s return to the art world, making new works that maintain the sentiment, the irony and humor that has appeared throughout her oeuvre, but this time infused with a sensibility that is much wiser and poignant than that of the past. While Secret Museum of Mankind, 2011, takes its cue from an early work titled Close But No Cigar, 1976, in which she pairs images of herself with those from history, the difference is that biting humor is now countered by a sobering acceptance of own’s place in the world. Segalove’s work exists as a testament and document to her desire to not disappear, to make a claim on her existence and relevance in the world today. Another recent work, titled Whatever Happened to My Future?, 2013, is a video in which the older Segalove converses with the younger version of herself. Throughout the video she enlightens her younger self about the changes that have taken place historically in our culture over the years. The viewer is a witness to the disappointments and amazements experienced by the younger Segalove and left feeling that the irony and playfulness of her youthful self is no longer sufficient for the artist who has reached a place of succinct maturity.
Segalove taught at OTIS Collage of Art and Design in Los Angeles for close to decade from the mid 70s to the early 80s; University of California, San Diego and University of California, Irvine in the mid to late 70s; Harvard University and University of California, Santa Barbara in the late 80s; California College of the Arts in the early 90s; and most recently at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Since 1973 Segalove has been having solo exhibitions of her work including “How to Look Prettier in a Picture,” California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA (1973); “California Casual,” ARCO Plaza, Los Angeles, CA (1977); “Videotapes by Ilene Segalove,” Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA (1979); “History of the Twentieth Century,” ARCO Center for the Visual Arts, Los Angeles, CA (1982); “Ilene Segalove,” CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY (1983); “Why I Got into TV and Other Stories,” Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA (1990); “New Photographic Stories,” Julie Rico Gallery, Santa Monica, CA (1993); “Ilene Segalove,” Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2009); “Ilene Segalove,” Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2010); “The Dissatisfactions of Ilene Segalove,” Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, NY (2010); and “Dialogues in Time,” Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2013).
Some prominent group exhibitions in which Segalove participated in the mid to late 70s include the “Whitney Biennial,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1975 and 1977); “Southland Video Anthology,” Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA (1975); “LA from My Window,” Morgan Thomas Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (1975); “Sequential Imagery in Photography,” Broxton Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (1976); “Social Commentary,” Woman’s Building, Los Angeles, CA (1976); “Hildegarde Duane and Ilene Segalove,” Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (1977); “Seven Evenings of Video by Women,” Woman’s Building, Los Angeles, CA (1977); “American Narrative/Story Art,” Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX (1978); “Southern California Video Invitational 1979,” University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (1979); “New West,” The Kitchen, New York, NY (1979); “The Altered Photograph,” P.S. 1, Long Island City, NY (1979).
Since 1980 Segalove has participated in many group video exhibitions while continuing to make photographic works. Following are some of the highlights from the last two decades of the twentieth century: “Video Art: The Electronic Medium,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (1980); “InsideOut: Self Beyond Likeness,” Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA (1981); “Some Contemporary Portraits,” Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX (1982); “New Narrative,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1983); “The People Next Door,” Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA (1984); “Video from Vancouver to San Diego,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (1985); “The Arts for Television,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (1987); “Avant-Garde in the Eighties,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (1987); “Identity: Representations of the Self,” Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY, (1989); “Suburban Home Life: Tracking the American Dream,” Whitney Museum of Art, New York NY (1989); “Women in Video, Pioneers,” Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA (1994); “P.L.A.N.: Photography Los Angeles Now,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (1996).
The new millennium saw the maturity of Segalove’s art career as indicated in part by her inclusion in some of the most recent important historical exhibitions about artists working in Los Angeles and California since the 70s such as “California Video,” The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2008); “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2011); and “State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970,” Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA (2011). Two other recent exhibitions that contextualize her work in relation to that of her peers and subject matter include “Segalove + Duane + Mogul,” at Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2011); and “Everyday Epiphanies: Photography and Daily Life Since 1969,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2013).
Most recently Segalove’s work has travelled abroad being included in the 30th São Paulo Art Biennial, “The Immanence of Poetics,” São Paulo, Brazil (2012); “Biennale Cuvée,” OÖ Kulturquartier, Linz, Austria (2013); and “The Second Sex,” Centre d’art Contemporain de Noisy-le-Sec, Paris, France (2013).
Segalove’s works are included numerous private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Jewish Museum in the New York area; the Hammer Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Laguna Art Museum in the region of Southern California; and elsewhere such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
During each of the last four decades of the twentieth century, Segalove received National Endowment for the Arts grants for her work in Photography, Video, Media, and Radio. She also received the Young Talent Award from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, along with the Filmmaker Award from the American Film Institute, the Contemporary Artist’s TV fund, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting award throughout the decade of the 80s.