When I was 13 or 14 years old my sister took me to a bar in downtown Minneapolis to see an art exhibit. Aside from museums this was the first exhibit I ever went to. This was also my first time meeting a living artist.
As we entered the bar I was overwhelmed by the crowd that had gathered. Everyone was obviously much older than I and as this was a busy weekend night in downtown, the energy and noise was impressive to say the least.
As we walked through the space, little framed images dotted the walls, icons of the Virgin Mary. They had a classical feel to them but were definitely more contemporary. Each one felt precious in some way. If I remember correctly many were wood block prints along with drawings and watercolors.
As we approached the center of the room, where the long bar resided, I caught a glimpse of the person my sister knew and indicated to me as being the artist of the evening. Although he was surrounded by people he was easy to distinguish as he was clad in a tuxedo. I would later learn that he was known for wearing only tuxedos, white in the summer and black in the winter. As I have only recently learned, there was an entire group of people who only considered the change of season to be official with the turn of color in this artists wardrobe. I met him that evening, but only briefly.
Over the years I kept track of this artist, always intrigued and curious to know more about the man in black and white, the man whose hairdo reminds one of Prince in the Purple Rain days. I learned there was controversy as to whose do came first. It really doesn’t matter as while Prince’s obviously continued to evolve with each season, this artist has kept the same hair style for decades.
A constant fixture of Uptown and Loring Park, I would see him often, always carrying his white portfolio under arm. If he wasn’t in a bar or restaurant he could be seen getting on and off buses while darting to and fro or just walking the streets en route to one of his numerous haunts. I even remember catching an episode of Outward Bound in which they captured him doing the one thing he perhaps loves doing as much as making art, fly fishing. And yes, under the high wader boots, he stood in the middle of the stream clad in his white tuxedo.
It was a few years after I opened the Rogue Buddha Gallery that I began to see this mysterious artist appear at my gallery openings as sightings of him began to emerge outside of Uptown and Loring Park and now included the Northeast neighborhood. On a few occasions I approached and attempted polite conversation. I soon learned that small talk wasn’t his thing as I was usually met with a reaction some would find disconcerting, perhaps leaving the uninitiated believing him to be aloof, a criticism I have heard often but now know is quite mistaken. Perhaps part of him has rubbed off on me as I have come to understand the virtue in silence and not making small talk just to make small talk.
Over the years I continued to make small conversation with this artist, always curious to know more, until one day the conversations were no longer small and based on societal politeness, but were real discussions on art, politics, history and society. It was then that I began to understand this artist a little more, his love of history, the good, the bad and the ugly, and his love for thoughtful discourse.
It was then that I learned he wasn’t narcissistic, evil spirited or aloof. He was in fact very humble, acutely bashful and dare I say, quite fragile. He is someone who has learned to project an outer shell of confidence and assertiveness as his very livelihood as an artist depends upon it. Anyone he has ever approached to show his portfolio in the hopes of selling a small original or print can attest to his brazen and seemingly unwavering approach.
To be clear however, I don’t defend him from criticism or claim he is above reproach as criticism is essential for any open and honest society, a sentiment I know he truly believes himself. In no way do I believe him to be perfect, rather, I believe him to be utterly human, not unlike any of us non tuxedo wearing humans. He is essentially an artist trying to make a living and to live his life by his own terms. Whether anyone else likes that or his art is on them. It just so happens that I really like his art as behind every piece is a thoughtful attempt to make something both of beauty and intellectual significance.
The artist I am speaking of is of course Scott Seekins, a local legend if ever there was one. I am proud and honored to be able to host his art on the walls of the Rogue Buddha Gallery for the first time in my 20 year gallery career. It’s only fitting that I would at some point show his work considering his was the first exhibit I ever attended. The fact that he still makes icons of the Virgin Mary and his work is based in classical realism with a heavy nod to surrealism, pop art and the symbolic doesn’t hurt either. It’s also fitting that at the opening he was clad in his signature white tuxedo which has since morphed into black. Indeed, the seasons must have changed.
Scott Seekins will be hosting an Artist Talk Friday November 2nd at 7pm. This event is free and open to the public. This is a great opportunity to hear Scott discuss his work in person and to ask questions about his work and career.