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'The Fader' Profile on SVA Alumnus Natalie de Segonzac

From The Fader: “I have known Natalie de Segonzac for 15 years. We met in 6th grade when she joined my Upper West Side N.Y.C school the year after 9/11. By junior year of high school, we spent most of our spare time together, in the art studio or prancing around the Village. In February of 2015, I moved into a Brooklyn apartment down the block from Natalie’s; in such close proximity, spending every available moment together felt natural. As a pair, we began to work on bettering ourselves—as artists, as women, and as living-breathing humans in the world. There were a few themes we kept coming back to in our conversations: the weirdness of having a body; how strange it is to have a mind that you sometimes can’t control; and the perceived otherness of the female being.

All of these themes are present in Natalie’s work, which takes many forms. She sculpts, photographs, films, paints, prints, welds, molds, stitches—the list goes on. Her most visceral work always features her own body. For her senior project at the School of Visual Arts, where Natalie studied sculpture and photography, she built a steel cube and photographed herself within it, stretching her form in dozens of directions. A video she made last year finds her wrapping her body in wire until encased. In another, she crochets a rope cocoon. One work-in-progress includes a vest made of fabric 'noodles' filled with rice—wearing it mimics the physical pressure of an anxiety attack, while also hugging your body, an antidote to its own heaviness. In an attempt to see herself beyond the fog of consciousness, Natalie is both subject and material, both artist and tool. Engaging with her work evokes the feeling of being distant from your own flesh and, at the same time, inextricably tied to it; a reminder you exist inside a container you didn’t choose. When we were alone, we talked about this paradoxical feeling all the time.

It felt like a cruel joke when Natalie broke her neck and injured her spinal cord this June. She was with friends on Fire Island, a beach town off the coast of Long Island, and had just taken her first ocean dive of the summer. The water was unexpectedly shallow, and she came up floating, face down. A friend dragged her out of the ocean, and she was helicoptered to the hospital in Stony Brook, Long Island. The next morning I learned that she was paralyzed from the neck down. When I visited Natalie at the hospital for the first time, after she’d been in the ICU for two weeks, she couldn’t move anything but her mouth. She said exactly two things to me: 'I have two titanium vertebrae,' and 'I just want to make shit.' And that’s exactly the hardheaded attitude that’s made her recovery progress so steady. The doctors didn’t even think she was ever going to move again, but when I visited her a week later, she was wiggling her left toes..." (For the full story and more photos, click here)

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