Wait, where is isa siegel?
Hi! If we already know each other, you probably know me by my legal last name, Siegel. Like millions of other Americans, however, this isn’t my real last name. It was shortened from Segalovich when my great-grandfather on my dad’s side came to New York City from Belarus. Thousands of others did the same when registering as newcomers to the country, making their long, foreign names easier for American-born folks to chew on. That means that now, I am just one of 22 thousand Siegels living in the US.
If you already know me on a more-than-surface level, you might know that I care deeply about my cultural heritage. My mother’s family is Romanian, and her parents were refugees just after World War II, sponsored by the Baptist church to start a new life in New York. Being a second-generation Romanian on my mother’s side, and a third-generation Lithuanian-Belarussian on my dad’s side, I didn’t grow up knowing too much about my cultural heritage. A large part of my practice as an artist today is learning about these countries, their cultures, and imbuing myself in their tumultuous histories, so I can better know where my family really comes from.
Eastern European countries, especially the little ones, barely cross most people’s minds that often. During my time in Hungary, I began to experience the real differences between Western and Eastern Europe, in everything from their food to their mannerisms, even their senses of humor. In the US, it’s all too easy to summarize all of Europe as “white.”