Urgent Museum Notice

Hollis Sigler

A black-and-white photograph of a smiling adult light-skinned woman with dark, bobbed hair. She wears a dark high-neck garment with a large heart-shaped brooch at the neck, drop earrings, and dark eyeshadow. Behind her is a painting with two figures and a spiral staircase.

Photo by Melanie Ames Arnold; Courtesy of the photographer, © Melanie Ames Arnold


Sigler said that she utilized a childlike, faux-naïf style as a reaction against a patriarchal culture that treated women as little more than children. Her style was also a means of conveying difficult emotional content in a way that viewers could easily understand.

Born in Gary, Indiana, Sigler earned her Master of Fine Arts from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1973. Sigler established herself as part of Chicago’s art scene during a period when artists there were challenging New York City’s cultural hegemony. Familiar with Chicago’s Hairy Who group, which emphasized cartoons and other popular imagery, and the whimsical art of Florine Stettheimer, Sigler found quirky precedents for her own idiosyncratic approach.

In 1985, Sigler was diagnosed with breast cancer, which later spread to her bones. Her work from the 1990s until her death from cancer in 2001 dealt with the personal pain of the disease and its effect on society. In 2001, Sigler was honored with the College Art Association’s Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Chicago Caucus for Women in the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Hollis Sigler
  • Birth

    Gary, Indiana, 1948
  • Death

    Prairie View, Illinois, 2001
  • Phonetic Spelling

    HAHL-iss SIHG-lerr

Works by Hollis Sigler

To Kiss The Spirits: Now This Is What It Is Really Like

Hollis Sigler favored subjects related to women’s experiences of love, family, and the domestic sphere. She often conjured up intimate interiors, suburban backyards, or vacation hideaways in which household objects or a shadow figure she called “the Lady” serve as stand-ins for real people. In the last fifteen years of her career, Sigler focused on the subject of breast cancer,...

Set against a black, starry nighttime sky above a group of houses, a glowing spiral staircase ascends through the center of the painting. A tiny female figures climbs the staircase, transforming as she goes, her raised arms transform into wings as she finally flies off above the town.