Scott Seekins has stuck with the same clothing scheme (white suit in the summer, black suit in the winter) for decades, but that steadfast commitment doesn’t apply to his artwork. In “Uniquely Dark,” an exhibition opening Saturday at Gamut Gallery, Seekins' fans will see a new side of the notorious man-about-town, and will be introduced to the artwork of his sweetheart, emerging artist Aleister White. Together, they’ll deck the gallery walls with paintings, ink drawings, and mixed-media art.
“I always like to reinvent myself. The Britneys have lasted for 15 years or so, but it’s not everything I do," says Seekins of his memorable comic-book-style pieces featuring himself and Britney Spears. "I think it’s important to try new things and not worry about being consistent.”
Seekins’ latest series of paintings, rife with symbolism, are a year-and-a-half in the making. They are populated by people, owls, cats, and eagles. Past and the present emotions are also an undercurrent in the work. He describes these new pieces as reminiscent of 16th century alchemy art, and are darker and edgier than his previous creations.
“It’s not like, somebody says, ‘I see an eye. What does that mean?’ It could mean a lot of things," he says. "I’d like to leave that up to the viewer. I put things down when I see them. It’s more spontaneous.”
Seekins, who grew up in South St. Paul, is an icon of the Twin Cities arts scene. There is at least one website and one Twitter account dedicated to documenting his whereabouts; to see him in public is practically regarded as a mystical experience.
“Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s annoying,” he says of the mixed blessing of his celebrity. “You try to be patient with it. It’s not like I planned it that way.”
If anything, what Seekins was seeking was distinction, and always has been.
“If the trend was bell bottoms, I wasn’t interested. If it was blue jeans, I wasn’t that," he says of his time as a student and young artist at MCAD in the 1960s. "I wanted something different, and I discovered it during that period. I was 21, and I had it completely down with the white and the black. Just sticking with it, you become this image. This is a town where conformity rules. Anything that doesn’t conform stands out.”
Indeed, one of the reasons he was attracted to White was her unconventional style and appearance, currently falling along the Victorian goth spectrum.
“It’s still developing,” Seekins says of his girlfriend's style. “It’s unique, too. We’re similar that way.”
A graduate of the University of Houston, White’s artistic aesthetic is heavily influenced by time spent in New Orleans. Masked women, conjoined twins, eerie eyes, BDSM, and voodoo are among the elements present in White’s pop surrealist and lowbrow art.
“They’re not just a bunch of skulls or tattoo-looking stuff,” he says. The grotesque and the erotic intermingle in White’s work; the occult and the bizarre combine in his. “Neither one of us is really connected to what’s prominent around here: Walker clones, conceptual or pseudo-intellectual art. I’m more personal and into something different. You won’t see any of this work at the Walker, ever.”
While love hasn’t changed the trajectory of his art, Seekins says the mutual support has been beneficial. Despite his frustrations with the local arts scene, he also doesn't have plans to move from Minnesota anytime soon.
“There’s a feeling that if you’re here there’s something wrong with you or you’re not as good of an artist,” he says. “People stay in Minnesota for a lot of reasons. I wouldn’t stay here for the art scene; I don’t think it’s very strong. I stay here for the fishing.”
IF YOU GO:
There will be an opening reception from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 13
Through February 26