Friday, April 20, 2012

Alexander Calder and Segre's Iron Works

Of all the posts that I've put up on this blog, the most popular by far has been the one about "How I Found Alexander Calder's Roxbury Home".  I've received many nice comments about it (thank you, dear readers) but the best of all was a phone call that I received from a wonderful fellow named Bob Hicks.

Bob, who is retired now, told me that he has been a fan of Calder for a long time, and mentioned that my posting about the Roxbury House inspired him to try and find it for himself on a recent trip to Connecticut. It was really fun to hear how he was able to find the house using the maps and information that I posted and to listen to his impressions of what he saw.

We spoke on the phone for quite some time and had a really pleasant conversation about Calder. Bob has traveled all over the world and has seen many Calder sculptures that most of us can only dream of seeing, like the massive "Teodelapio" stabile in Spoleto, Italy (more about that in a future post).

But I was most excited to learn that Bob had visited Segre's Iron Works

You may be wondering, what is so exciting about a metal-working shop? The answer is that Segre's was responsible for the fabrication of many large Calder stabiles that were created in the Sixties and Seventies, turning Calder's ideas (usually expressed in the form of a "maquette" or small model of the proposed sculpture) into the massive pieces that stand in city squares, colleges, business, and sculpture parks around the county.  Bob had seen Segre's when they were actively making Calder sculptures.

Bob explained that he was traveling through Waterbury Connecticut in the late Sixties and was surprised when he suddenly whizzed by what was obviously a large Calder stabile sitting out "in the middle of nowhere".   He turned around and went back to find a somewhat mundane looking metal-working shop surrounded by several Calder stabiles in various stages of completion.  Amazed by what he was seeing, Bob got out of his car and went into the shop to find out what was going on - and to get permission to take some pictures.

"You have pictures of Segre's Iron Works with Calder's sitting outside?" I asked...

"Yes!" said Bob, "I took quite a few.  They are on slides, if you are interested in seeing them I'll dig them out and see if I can make some prints"

"Oh wow" I said, "I would LOVE to see those!  Could I post them on my blog?"

"Sure!" said Bob, "give me a couple weeks to get them together and I'll send them to you.  You can do whatever you like with them"

And so, here you are.  A collection of vintage photos from the late Sixties showing the birth of some of Calder's most famous stabiles: the "Flamingo" just before it was shipped off to Chicago, and "Stegosaurus", which is now at an art museum in Toledo, Ohio.

Many many thanks to Bob Hicks for sharing these great historical photos. 



Approaching Segre's Iron Works - Waterbury, CT     -  Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Segre's Iron Works - late 1960's  - photo courtesy of Robert Hicks   


Front yard at Segre's - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Stegosaurus and small Flamingo at Segre's Iron Works - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

"Flamingo" (full size) - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Alexander Calder's "Flamingo" at Segre's Iron Works - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

5 comments:

  1. These images are a great find! I began research around 1989 into Steven Segree's work in relation to his fabrication of FLAMINGO and especially his involvement in starting the Keeler & Long paint Co.'s production of the standard Calder Red that was afterwards shipped worldwide for necessary repaintings of Calders. Mr.Segree and I last spoke by phone around 1990. I just repainted FLAMINGO in Chicago (again) over three months ending in August and that caused me to try and finish the research and have been soliciting information. I never visited his shop. So these are really treasures for me. Thanks.

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    1. I see two buildings in the pictures. Are they both Segre's or is the one with the large Flamingo, Waterbury Iron Works? If not, where was Waterbury Iron Works?
      Do you know how to get a hold of any Segre employees from the 1970's? I have a question to ask about some of the mobiles they received from Calder as gifts.

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  2. I remember seeing the Calders under construction along Route 89 outside Waterbury while going to visit my in-laws in Western Connecticut in the 1970s. Thanks for tying this all together.

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  3. Oooops, it was I-84. The site is now full of retail stores and no evidence of the former ironworks. Life has moved on.

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  4. This place has an entry in Jane and Michael Stern's 1970s tour book Amazing America, too.

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