It is hard to see the details surrounding this Artist as she operated the St Louis landscape from 1923 to her passing and never gained much fame. These millions of historical unknown Artists that appear like perennial flowers are beautiful to those who have the pleasure of direct experience with a creative soul. Yet on the Seib Family Trust, the people that knew this Artist, speak of Edna in a way, I never could. Honoring this artist takes finesse and sharing the powerful stories from the family.
Edna Seib was a young woman born into a tight collective family unit. Seib bakery, was a local Soulard institution and the family itself was remarkable from every angle. Carrie was magical, psychic and charismatic, the perfect combination for a Powerful Matriarch inspiring Alma, Pauline, Jeanette and Edna.
The men of the family were strong, smart and sensitive using their talents for baking, coffee roasting, art, fishing, farming and anthropology. Is any wonder that the children of this situation would turn out anything …but brilliant?
The earliest history of Edna, is filled with adventure, riverfront drama and a very strange social scene. In the records at the library Annex, she appears with awards for her art, philanthropy and garden designs. Her young art is filled with magic, elves, romance, bright colors and a 1920’s Art Deco influence. If she was in the modern age, she would blend into the Etsy crowd, doing crafts with her classically trained eye.
Edna went to McKinley high school in her own neighborhood, then Washington University with a degree in Art. She flowed into the St Louis Guided Age scene of new money excess. Saintt Louis had the finest Universities, city parks, and patrons of the arts. There is a rumor that she worked on the Cathedral Basilica in the Central west end, with either stain-glass or mosaic work.
The late 1920’s were Edna’s realm, her playground, and the art is wonderful and magical. Edna Seib is a likely candidate for inheriting some of her Mother’s gifts, and training. A sensitive, a clairvoyant, or at least having some gift and in a cultural environment that was encouraging to young women to explore their gifts.
Edna was a member of a local female Art group called Shanti that often set up Psychic demonstrations in Christian Science halls, or Spiritualist churches and invited the young cultured women of the city to attend. Female empowerment was a strong focus in the women circles of St Louis. Carrie Seib was a known Suffragette and Business leader with the success of the family bakery, the influence makes Edna’s Art even more fascinating.
The vibrant color of her stain glass work, the mosaic fishes, color designs and color palate sensitivity was beautiful idealistic and hopeful. The girlish charm of picturesque nature and innocent wildlife, is like a proto-Disney vision. Who can say where influences go, but I imagine Edna’s years before her marriage to be glorious. Not that the marriage years were bad, as she took on motherly duties, house care and still found time to work on her clippings.
The Clippings were done in the evenings, much like her mother, when she was upstairs writing poetry, Edna was doing Art. Her Mother and daughters all did art, everyone creating their own unique brand or medium.
The Clipping folders were a way for Edna to save the things that inspired her. A “swap file” for the creative juices, a way to store the memories, of past art guides, newspaper stories, art history and her love for Disney. Edna carefully clipped all the things that inspired her, then stored them categorized them into brown paper folders labelled with the details of her mind.
There are a lot neighborhood stories about the family members, each one is a unique creature. Carrie Seib had her Spiritualist church which was the center of the family life, after the Bakery was sold. George was a family doctor, operating out of the old kitchen, Edna and her family in the Carriage houses over the years.
After her Mother’s death in 1969, Edna became the Matriarch of 2323 Lafayette ave in Lafayette Square. Her brother George stayed in charge of the house and finances, and her daughter returns to raise her children under the same roof. Edna is refined, cultured and takes the top floor as her art studio, doing art, and cutting clippings until the mental decay of old age.
I don’t see myself as owning Edna Seib’s art, but something more powerful, the influences of her artistic mind.
I love that the Seib Family Trust is filled with true stories, and not my conjecture, which ultimately is an Archeologist’s job. You got to find the narrative within the aspects of a science journal, the published magazine, or educational crowd or in my case, throw it on a website for history to see, but true stories are best told by those who lived it.
Edna Seib was a remarkable woman and artist. Her pulse on her culture speaks of her time, as all art tends to find itself a product of it’s own era and yet she moved through the ages with her own unique voice.