By Scott DeBerry, Publisher. Click on the images for a larger view.
Levy Living is thrilled to share with our readers a series of interviews with local Cedar Key art and artists along the Nature Coast as we explore their artwork. Our first featured artist is Mike Segal, who lives in Chiefland. The primary gallery to display and sell his work is Cedar Key’s Island Arts Gallery, an artist co-op. This feature will introduce you to Mike and give an overview of his work representing the focus on the two major subjects of his paintings, the Cedar Key theme and his Bible art. Mike’s vibrantly colored Cedar Key paintings have proven to be very popular and both the originals and print versions are collected by thousands of art lovers all over the country. Mike also paints scenes from the Bible, which he started at a request from a neighbor in 1983 when he lived in the mountains of North Carolina.
I was first introduced to the artist at an art show in Gainesville, Florida in 2006. As my wife and I strolled the crowded maze of booths at Millhopper Shopping Center, the show’s venue, we stumbled onto Mike’s booth and his brightly colored work. It was my wife who first noticed the distinct artwork composed mainly of primary colors set off by black outlines. Despite the crowds, we managed to engage in an enjoyable chat with Mike and his lovely wife, Marvi. As my wife wandered down the aisle to another booth beckoned by yet more artwork, I managed to select and pay for my own Mike Segal original painting, later delivered by Mike himself just in time to surprise my wife for Christmas.
Who is Mike Segal? Mike shared a bit of his journey with me.
“My wife, Marvi, and I moved to Levy County in 1993 from High Springs, Florida. We are both Florida natives and were born in Miami Beach. My grandfather, Morris Segal, moved to Miami 1924 which is sort of a newcomer compared to many of the families that first settled Florida in Levy County. When I graduated college from North Carolina State University with a degree in Landscape Architecture, the first job I had was designing parks for the Florida Department of Natural Resources. One of the projects I worked on in 1978 was some improvements to the Manatee Springs State Park in Levy County.
“In 1983 we moved to Valle Crucis, North Carolina and I took up painting as a full time artist while also teaching part time in the North Carolina Artist in the Schools Program. Valle Crucis was named for the natural cross that is formed in the valley by the mist from the confluence of the Watauga River, Bairds Creek, and another small creek. On many mornings a cross rises up from the valley and may be seen from many of the mountaintops, thus the valley was named Valle Crucis or Vale of the Cross.
“Marvi and I are both Jewish and our families on both sides have been Jewish since Abraham crossed the Jordan River and settled in Canaan over 3,000 years ago. Reading the Bible and practicing our religion has always been an important part of our lives. One day my neighbor, who was a Christian, asked me if I would make a drawing for his Wednesday Bible group and I made a nice sketch of a story from Genesis, which was very helpful in their discussions. That is when I began making Bible paintings which is a very large part of my work today. I made many more sketches for my neighbor’s Bible group over the years we lived there.
“In 1993, Marvi and I decided to come home to our native state of Florida since we missed our fishing and wanted to escape the cold winters high up on the mountain. We wanted to move near Cedar Key but it took a few years of living in High Springs in order to get the resources together to move to our little home out here in Levy County on County Road 345. I had remembered fishing at Cedar Key when I was designing the improvements at Manatee Springs State Park.
“I opened a studio at the Harbor Master Building on Cedar Key that year and then a few years later helped build up the Island Arts Gallery which was started a year before as a local artists’ co-op and remains the primary location for my work today.”
Mike strongly feels that it is important to foster a new passion for art both related to the artists who produce the art and those who appreciate it and ultimately purchase it. “I’ve seen a shift in the demographic at the local art shows over the past twenty years from 20-somethings to 50-plus, ” he explains. Our next feature will delve more directly in to the process Mike uses to achieve the desired results related to both local art that has a tangible subject such as a landscape or wildlife, and Bible related art which has a much different process and approach. “We live in an agricultural landscape and that’s what I communicate with my art.”
Join us next time to see and learn more about Cedar Key art and Mike’s unique and wonderful work. We encourage you to take action now and subscribe to Levy Living; it’s free and you won’t miss a word of Mike’s amazing story!
Please be sure to visit his gallery at Island Arts in Cedar Key next time your down and you can browse his beautiful prints now on his website.