April 2, 2020

Portrait of the Young Man as an Artist

Marc Chagall had his first art exhibition around age 27. Amedeo Modigliani was 23. Grover Siegel is 10.

Grover, a fifth-grader who lives in Studio City, and whose family worships at IKAR, has been making art since he was a toddler, whether with stickers or clay. In first grade, he and the other kids in his class were asked to draw self-portraits. 

Sitting at his dining room table on the first day of summer vacation, Grover told the Journal, “I just liked that so much. I really wanted to start drawing more.”

Grover approached his parents, Andy Siegel, a writer and actor, and Jennifer Manley, an actor and photographer, about learning to draw more realistically. Shortly thereafter, they enrolled him in a group art class at a local studio. 

“He always has had an eye for color,” Manley said. “Whenever we draw together, he just puts colors together in a way that is always so pleasing.”

On more than one occasion she’s tapped her son to help with home-design decisions, including the selection of the subtly patterned geometric curtains in the living room and the gray pillows on the sofa.

More recently, Grover has been taking a weekly art class with two friends at his home. He is especially keen on oil painting.

“It’s really tricky,” he said. “I like having a challenge.” His favorite things to paint are animals and landscapes.

Last month, Grover showed over a dozen of his pieces — a combination of oils, watercolors, pastels and pencil sketches — at a special one-day exhibition at Brookdale North Tarzana, an assisted living facility where his maternal grandmother, Marjorie Manley, lives. 

“For anyone who thinks they can’t do art, just picture me. I can do it basically just using one hand.” — Grover Siegel

Some of the pieces were originals. Others were copies of well-known works such as Edward Hopper’s “The Lighthouse at Two Lights.” Not only was it Grover’s first show, it was the first time Brookdale North had done anything like this.

“It was my idea to have it,” Grover said. He said his inspiration was simply, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have an art show here?”

Brookdale activities director Liina Cuba, who knew the young artist from his regular visits, agreed. So she set a date for the show in late May and put out a call to the residents to see if any of them wanted to participate. Seven jumped at the chance.

On the scheduled afternoon, Cuba said a line of eager residents waited outside the community room to enter. Many had dressed up for the occasion. There was so much interest that not everyone could be let in at once. Grover said some people didn’t believe a 10-year-old could be responsible for the vivid landscapes, delicate still lifes and captivating animals he had created. But according to his fourth-grade teacher, Nina Rosen, Grover “is a true artist, in skill and in his appreciation of the beauty in the world.”

Making Grover’s young debut even more remarkable is the fact that he was born with what is commonly known as a limb difference. To use his words, he has “a large hand and a little hand. So for anyone who thinks they can’t do art,” he said, “just picture me. I can do it basically just using one hand.” 

The truth is, there is little Grover can’t do. “Except hold two things,” he offered. “We have to stay in perspective.”

Grover also is an accomplished tennis player. He plays three times a week and also competes in the sport. And he dabbles in piano and sings.

But back to the art show.

According to Cuba, the event “brought so much excitement to the community, it has been decided to continue with the art show annually.”

Grover, who is not the least bit shy, enjoyed his afternoon in the limelight. But there might be one person who enjoyed it even more: his grandmother, Marjorie.

“My mom was beyond happy,” Manley said. “This was a grandma’s dream come true.”