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Selina Trieff

 (1934 - 2015)
Selina Trieff was active/lived in New York, Massachusetts.  Selina Trieff is known for abstract portrait, landscape and figure painting.

Selina Trieff

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Selina Trieff
Following is the obituary of Selina Trieff from The Cape Cod Times, January 18, 2015, by Mary Ann Bragg.

Wellfleet painter Selina Trieff, '100 percent her own artist,' dies at 81

An artist, a wife and a mom died early Wednesday in Wellfleet at the point, her family said, when she stopped being able to hold a brush.

Selina Trieff, 81, died in her chair in the studio of the Commercial Street home she shared with her husband, artist Robert Henry. Trieff died from the toll that several health issues had taken on her body, Henry said. "She was having trouble breathing," he said. "She wasn't able to stand. She was just suffering, suffering, suffering. But if she could, she never showed it to anyone on the outside. And she continued to work."

Trieff was an artist who came from the tradition of American abstract expressionism and also figurative expressionism, according to her family and Provincetown gallery owner Berta Walker, who represented her. Trieff studied from 1954 to 1956 in New York and Provincetown with abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann, according to her family.

"But Selina was completely 100 percent her own artist," Walker said. The frequent repetition of women, chickens, pigs and dogs in her work, "these figures we all know, they all went directly from her inner truth to our inner truth," Walker said.

"It's so tactile," Walker said by phone from her gallery. Walker gave Trieff a solo exhibition in 1986 at the Graham Modern Gallery in New York. Walker remembers Trieff as a "sweet lady with this long, gray, marvelous hair" coming into the gallery, dropping off her slides and asking Walker to visit her studio.

"I'm looking at her paintings right now," Walker said. "It makes my fingers tingle. I feel that each piece is a very personal work of art created for the person who ends up getting it, and I often saw that happen."

Since 1960, Trieff has had solo exhibitions nearly every year, from New York to Norway to California to Paris to the Provincetown Art Association and Museum in 2007. Her work is in at least 20 public collections across the country, and she has taught in design schools both locally and nationally.

People seeing Trieff's work for the first time either "turn on the balls of their feet and leave" or they are drawn toward it, Walker said. "The work is so personal that you may not want to get that personal with yourself."

Trieff grew up in Brooklyn, where her father was a dentist and her mother helped in the dental office. She attended public schools, and by the time she got to Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, she was part of an "art squad," putting up posters on the high school walls. At that time, Robert Henry said, a lot of art focused on commercial advertising and a lot of her friends had careers in that world.

Instead of entering the advertising world, though, Trieff was awarded got a scholarship to the Art Students League of New York in 1951. In the same year, she entered Brooklyn College, where she met Henry in a photography class. Henry had transferred in from engineering school and had also studied with Hofmann.

At the college, the art studio classes were from 2 to 6 p.m. with a coffee break at 4 p.m., Henry said. The students would go down to the cafeteria for coffee and hang out. "Even when we weren't in the same class, we were always looking for each other," he said. "We just loved each other's company. She was young and beautiful and spritely. She was something else."

They married on Thanksgiving Day in 1955 in New York. "We got married," Henry said. "We stayed married."

They lived in a sixth floor walk-up loft, which Sarah Henry, the couple's eldest daughter, remembers as a former garment manufacturing space in an area of the city that was being vacated by businesses but where artists were moving in.

"My mom had a studio there, but one thing that everybody always remarked about was how she had the amazing ability to just be completely devoted to her family and completely devoted to her art at the same time," Sarah Henry said. Sarah, 53, a museum deputy director and curator, and her sister Jane, 49, an artist, live in New York.

The couple bought the house in Wellfleet in 1996 with its wide front porch and a first floor that served as an impromptu gallery on Saturday nights in the summer, Robert Henry said. Given Trieff's increasing difficulty with climbing the stairs to the New York loft, the couple moved to Wellfleet full time almost a decade ago. The house has hosted many friends in the last several years, including a six-person movie club, Trieff's close friend Gloria Watts of Wellfleet said. "I loved everything about her," Watts said.

In her studio, Trieff would typically start with an inner image, and with a drawing, Robert Henry said. Then she would start to paint and, in the Hofmann tradition, she would "put something down, look at it and change it."

In more recent years, Trieff would put paint on the canvas almost thoughtlessly, using old brushes that should have been thrown away 40 years ago, Henry said."It looked like a mess, he said. "But from this she created this wonderfully bright spiritual expressive work."

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About  Selina Trieff

Born:  1934 - Brooklyn, New York
Died:   2015 - Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Known for:  abstract portrait, landscape and figure painting