The artist reflects on Blair County’s influences on the famous career | News, Sports, Work


03/30/22 Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Artist Rachel Sager sits at the front of her Breakthrough series in the lobby of the Comfort Suites at the Pinecroft exit of I-99.

As a 12-year-old, former Hollidaysburg resident and artist Rachel Sager learned perseverance, re-work value and high standards while she was a marketing intern at the corporate offices of Hoss’s Steak and Sea House.

It was an opportunity offered to her by her father’s uncle – Hoss founder Bill Campbell. Her father, Dane Sager, was working in the marketing office at the time.

“Working at Hoss’s was extremely wonderful,” Sager said during a telephone interview while visiting family in the area. “It was very affirmative to do the work and get paid. It was quite challenging to have money related to that job and my art made me think about pursuing art for a career. ”

Sager recently returned to the area – where she spent the holidays and summer growing up – after an exhibition of her paintings at the Metropolitan Art Fair in New York City. Now 44, Sager made a name for herself in the West Bank, but the NYC show helped introduce her work to new clients and East Coast merchants, including a trader who plans to visit her studio in Petaluma, located in the region. North Bay San Francisco Bay Area in Sonoma County, California. Sager has lived in California for the past 15 years.

Sager was initially rated as one of two American painters selected for a PBS documentary, which won an Emmy in 2007. In “Silk Road Sketch”, Sager and another American artist traveled on an ancient silk trade route through China and were the first to film inside the caves known as the Thousand Buddha Caves.

Directors, Sager said, approached her while she was attending an art workshop and she was beaten “Many other artists” for experience – “I am very proud of that.”

Sager’s confidence to undertake such a journey began with her internship at Hoss’s and the mentoring provided by Betsy Lehman from Hollidaysburg, who then worked in marketing and communication at Hoss’s with her father.

“Her father knew she was an artist and he brought her.” explained Lehman. “You do not expect such a great artistic ability from a 12-year-old, but she was great. At that time, we did not have computers for drawing, so the ability to draw was highly coveted. There were no computer art clips then. “

At Hoss’s, Sager created drawing sheets for the client’s children to color while eating. They displayed Hoss’s mascot in various poses on billboard advertisements and on drawing sheets. Two of Sager’s models became billboards.

Lehman, who is director of special projects at Lehman Engineers in Hollidaysburg, a company run by her husband, Joe Lehman Jr.

“I felt it mattered. At the age of 12, I was treated as an adult and as a valuable artist. ” tha Sager. “They criticized my plans and told me to go back and do it again … and again. “I would do it over and over until it was fair.”

Experience taught her not to take criticism personally and helped her develop discipline in her art. She also wore the Hoss mascot costume to events like the Keystone Country Fair.

“I learned a work ethic that I do not think I would have learned anywhere else.” tha Sager.

Lehman became Sager’s first mentor and, after she attended the prestigious Temple Tyler University School of the Arts, became its patron, purchasing one of her works from her college graduation exhibition. Twenty years later, Lehman said, the piece contains “Lots of movement in beautiful colors.”

“There’s a lot going on in it, and I still find something different to catch the eye.” Lehman said, noting that her previous works included many portraits – skills that Sager developed while studying and working in Florence, Italy. Today, Sager’s works are figurative using mixed media to create “explosions” describing the transformation.

The homes and businesses in Blair County – the place that Sager identifies as her home – contain the highest concentration of her art. In addition to Lehman’s home and business, Sager’s works adorn the homes of family and friends, as well as her parents, Dane and Kim Sager, hotel businesses, The Comfort Inns in Altoona, Pinecroft and Huntingdon.

Sager recalls being put on top of other students while making a mural in second grade.

“I remember having the opportunity to draw the jungle-themed mural with tigers and leopards and establish myself as a leader and supervise other students.” she said.

Her family supported her early talents with gifts of sketchbooks and art supplies. The large, multi-generational Campbell family attended her last solo show in New York as she was backed by private commission work throughout her career.

“For me to reach this high point at this point – New York was a necessary step to push me into a bigger market. I have merchants coming to visit me in California right now. That’s amazing, “he said. she said, and more exciting than the $ 15,000 paintings she sold.

But more important than selling it to her is being “important”, she said, as she portrays the human soul in transition through her recent works. While painting mostly with oils, Sager turned to coal during her pregnancy, a safer medium. After the birth of her two children, she continued to use charcoal and oil together in collage-based mixed pieces on large canvases.

“In my blasting parts, I use charcoal as a sub-painting technique and then add layers of oil paint. These are interesting because they are not often used together. Coal is a natural expression of the topic I am focusing on – the transformation of matter. They explore how matter changes from one stage to another. I focus on the moment of change. “ she said. “I see the change as a positive. “It’s evolution and progress compared to destruction.”

Its subjects are partly inspired by the recent years of California wildfires – the deliberate fires and fires that aim to control them.

“Fires are scary and bad, but controlled fires are used to create new growth. This is the version I am trying to portray – probably because I am an optimist and a very positive thinker. “

Positive images of revival and reconstruction are also themes in her college-based figurative pieces, which also resonated with NYC art clients. “I reconstruct images from old parts of magazines to build a new narrative. I like to explore the bigger issues of life and the transitions of life like the birth of a child and the transition from life to death – things that are hard to express in a simple way, but that can be expressed when they are made up of a million images. ”

She compares her figurative pieces as pieces of memory that come through smells, images and feelings.

Sager appreciates her success for the lessons she learned in Blair County and the support of family and Lehman.

“They treated me as a talented artist and I still hold that value to this day. tha Sager. “I learned to be disciplined and serious about art and to work to get here.”

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