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 Alvena Vajda Seckar  (1915 - 2012)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey/West Virginia      Known for: Painting, writing, design, illustration

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Alvena Vajda Seckar Bunin is primarily known as Alvena Vajda Seckar

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Alvena Vajda Seckar
An example of work by Alvena Vajda Seckar Bunin
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Alvena Vajda Seckar was born to Slovak immigrants in McMechen, West Virginia.  Her father was a coal-miner, and the family moved more than twenty times to wherever the work was, from one mining camp to the next.  The family was poor, often living under unhealthy conditions, but the cultural life of Slovak traditions proved to provide a rooted and rich life for the children.

One of Alvena's teachers in Allentown, Pennsylvania recognized her artistic talent, and made it possible for her to find a patron and study at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art.

She continued her education at the University of Pennsylvania, transferred to New York University and received her Bachelors in 1939 and her Masters in 1949.  She also studied painting with Walter Emerson Baum, Sol Wilson, and Phil Reisman.

Her paintings as well as her children's books reveal an understanding of working class people, of their hardships and the realities of their lives.  Nevertheless, she doesn't turn a blind eye to lighter moments, showing the solace and strength found in community and neighborhood and the power that lies in coming together with others to fight injustices and achieve social change.

Seckar is the author of two much acclaimed socially critical children's books Zuska of the Burning Hills; Trapped in the Old Mine, 1953; Misko of the Moving Hills, 1956). She won an award at the Herald Tribune Book Festival, and was placed on the New York Times list of Hundred Best Books published for children.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she contributed to the Slovanik newspaper L'udovy Dennik.  For a short year from 1941 to 1942 she served as the curator for textiles at the Cooper Union Art School in New York, and briefly worked as a designer at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1946.

After attending the first World Youth Conference in Prague in 1947, more than anything else, she saw her herself as a political artist.

An example of her political paintings is the work, titled Desegregation, which was created in 1960, and hangs on the second floor of the New Orleans Public Library.  It shows a young black girl in a car, being driven away by an older, official looking white male, while angry crowds are held back by a line of policemen.  One of the protestors is waving a confederate flag, others are shouting, but the artist does not take sides in the depiction of this scene.  The fear in the child's eye is just as real as the anger in the distorted faces of the protestors.  Seckar allows the viewer to make up his or her own mind, while preserving a scene of the civil rights' struggle in her own unique way.

Allentown, Pennsylvania 1938 and 1950 (solos)
University of Pennsylvania, 1935-37
Cohn Gallery, 1944 (solo)
Webster Library, 1945 (solo)
Parkersburg, West Virginia, 1946
Mississippi Art Association, 1946
Mint Museum of Art, 1946
Pittsburgh Art Club, 1947 (solo)
Irvington Art Museum, 1949
Philadelphia Young Men's Hebrew Association, 1950
Barzansky Gallery, 1952 (solo)
Montclair Art Museum, 1955, 1957 (prize)
Hackensack Art Club
Newark Art Club

Sources include:

Peter H. Falk, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut, 1999
Who's Who in American Art, 1947, 1959

Added note: Alvena Vajda Seckar passed away on March 7, 2012 in Pompton Lake, New Jersey.  She donated her body to science.

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