Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

David Seculoff


David Tanner

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 30, 2006

Heads Up! This article is 16 years old.

This is a story about David Seculoff, who,

disguised as a mild-mannered, part-time doorman

during the day, becomes a mild-mannered

clarinetist and abstract painter off the clock.

And, shhhh … he is reticent to talk about any

of it. He doesn’t even practice it all that much,

so let’s just keep it between us, okay?

This sixty-ish, cosmopolitan painter –

reluctant to talk about his work, tight-lipped

for sure and a challenge to enquiring journalists

anywhere – is nonetheless, an unsung talent

deserving of attention.

“I’m not telling stories with my work,” the

handsome, manicured artist confessed recently in

his mid-town studio apartment. Subtly distancing

himself from the dominant figurative field of

local works, he adds, “I really just manipulate

puddles of color until I’m satisfied. The (he

refers to them in the third-person) works refer

only to themselves.”

And, with such – responses, we’re left to string

together a mosaic of underlining elements that

might help us address his painted works which

have been shown and collected internationally as

well as most recently at Artlink.

His paintings, large, 4 by 5-foot expanses on

special paper (he needs to secure it out of

Chicago; it’s unavailable here and no local

outlets will order it for him, duh?) absorb his

deep, but not dark, brooding colors. He applies

the paint via a roller, but sometimes it’s nudged

or dripped. The images resemble cast imprints

from peeling billboards and posters. They mimic

the residue of weathered exterior walls or eroded

pedestrian pathways, all the while incorporating

geometric, hard-edged shapes.

Intriguing, enigmatic, the stuff of abstract

painters. Perhaps his images are guided via a

kind of Jungian subconscious, ambiguous symbols,

land- or dream-scapes, whatever, they are

contemplative and restorative.

Born of highly driven immigrant Macedonian

parents, Seculoff was exposed to music and art

appreciation from the onset. His parents,

particularly his father, were determined to

provide an old-world upbringing including the

fine arts, and he and his five siblings were

exposed to music and literature.

After working in several trades including a

career as a baker, the elder Seculoff and his

wife opened a restaurant originally called The

Palace of Sweets, later Tom and Johnnies, on West

Main Street, with Mrs. Seculoff doing the

cooking. Years later the family sold the

business, and it is now the site of

O’Sullivans.

During his school days (he eventually played in

the band and orchestra during high school at

Central Catholic) David pursued the clarinet and

was able to master it to the point that he played

with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic under his

mentor, the former renowned conductor, Igor

Buketoff.

From there he graduated to extra curricular

classes in Chicago and parlayed a scholarship to

the Thornton School of Music at the University of

Southern California following a stint in the Army

during the Korean War. Although he maintained his

abiding interest in music at USC (he actually

played a bagpipe at one point), Seculoff

considered becoming a writer and ended up earning

his undergraduate degree in the Humanities. Two

years later he would earn a MFA.

Although he himself never took a painting class

from him, Seculoff remembers the legendary

painter Richard Diebenkorn, mostly from stories

through friends who took his classes at USC.

“It made sense to me,” he recalled “that

Diebenkorn would require his students to produce

a painting each day of class. It was a way to

teach younger artists not to be precious, to

loosen up and not to be so attached. I’m not

certain the students liked it.”

Interestingly, while living in Hermosa Beach

Seculoff became a neighbor of the famous artist

and would occasionally catch a glimpse of him

working on a piece on his balcony.

“I was far too timid to ever approach him,” Seculoff remembered.

“It was an interesting period then in all the

arts,” he continued. “Charles Lloyd (the jazz

saxophonist) was a classmate. Together with

friends I’d go to the Lighthouse to hear whatever

group was headlining there.”

To earn extra money the young Seculoff would

play occasional gigs, but he preferred doing

portraits of USC sorority girls where he could

refine his emerging talent for figure drawing.

The work was satisfying and rewarding, but

sometimes only after the portraits were found

agreeable by the girl’s father. (“Too much

cleavage, not enough cleavage.”)

While completing his graduate work Seculoff

worked as a teaching assistant, and after

graduation he found employment at the County

Museum and Municipal Art Gallery in Los Angeles.

Years later Seculoff would return to the West

Coast and work for museums and galleries in San

Francisco and Pasadena.

After settling in the Washington area, he found

jobs with the Smithsonian and Hirschhorn where he

served as a curatorial assistant. In one

memorable episode he and a colleague were

dispatched to meet with Clyfford Still’s widow in

the hopes of negotiating the rights to his works.

“I don’t remember exactly how it turned out. She

demanded that all the works be displayed together

in one room. That would be a very rare

concession.”

Wanderlust and the chance to meet up with

friends took Seculoff to Berlin, where he took

classes at the Hochscule Fur Bildende Kunste in

the late 1960s (he speaks flawless German). There

he worked a variety of jobs and helped support

himself playing the clarinet. Again he immersed

himself in the German culture and attended opera,

recitals, the theater, both Brechtian productions

as well as those of the expatriate Living

Theatre.

“One of my most interesting jobs was working as

a department store display designer,” he

recalled. “I’ve always had a fondness for

beautiful objects, though I’ve never become a

serious collector.”

Although there are no pressing plans for any

solo exhibitions, Seculoff continues to create

his painterly works and keeps his hand active

with drawing classes at Artlink. I predict it

won’t be long before he is “re-discovered” in his

hometown where his journey of self and artistic

discovery began.

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