In Isolation – an Interview With Seth Clark

“Mass II” – The headlining work of “Seth Clark: In Isolation” exhibition

On October 23, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the solo exhibition “In Isolation” opened for public viewing. Created by multimedia artist Seth Clark, this unique and exciting exhibition will run through November 21, 2020, at Paradigm Gallery + Studio®. “In Isolation” features a collection of collages and drawings that contribute to Clark’s ongoing exploration of structure and aging architecture.

The pieces in this particular collection specifically look at elements of control and constriction. They also explore the idea of “home,” viewed through the lens of the ways in which people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. By viewing life in this way, we can remember the past, learn from the present, and reset ourselves to prepare for the future.

“Rooftops” – Part of “Seth Clark: In Isolation” exhibition

Seth Clark was raised in Seekonk, Massachusetts. He studied print design and alternative typography at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he also discovered collage.

“In Isolation” is Clark’s fourth solo exhibition presented at Paradigm Gallery. It’s been described as more bare and disjointed compared to some of Clark’s other works.

Even though many of the pieces include drips, paint smudges, and other imperfections, critics and viewers have made it clear that the end result is not one that feels sloppy or careless. Instead, it feels honest and reflects the lack of control and uncertainty that many of us have felt throughout 2020.

The headlining work in this collection is “Mass II.” The 12-foot collage features fragmented ruins of collapsing homes. It was initially created in 2014 and was inspired by the images of homes destroyed in the Johnstown Flood, which killed over 2,200 people after a Western Pennsylvania dam broke in 1889.

Those who are interested in viewing “Seth Clark: In Isolation” will need to schedule an appointment with the gallery to ensure they’re staying safe and following social distancing guidelines. The exhibit is also available for viewing online through the gallery’s website.

Interview With the Artist

Artist Seth Clark working in his studio

– “In Isolation” is your fourth solo exhibition at Paradigm Gallery. How would you describe your project?

I think this project is a reflection of the shared anxiety and confusion that is surrounding all of us right now amidst a global pandemic. It also explores how our relationship to “home” has changed through quarantining. 

– Where did you draw your inspiration from?

Due to travel restrictions, I’ve recently been spending a lot of time observing the houses and architecture within my own neighborhood in Pittsburgh. I walk these alleyways often on my way to and from my studio, which is about a mile away from my house. I can avoid the crowded streets while getting memorable views of cluttered back porches and aging gables.

– The headlining work of the exhibition is “Mass II,” initially created in 2014. Why did you include it in your latest show?

It just symbolizes where America is for me right now. At the time, I was exploring imagery from the Johnstown Flood of 1889, where the dam of a hunting and fishing club broke due to human neglect causing over two thousand deaths. No one ever took responsibility, although many were aware of the poor state of the dam. I think there are parallels with what we are going through right now.

– Is there a specific idea or message that you want people to perceive with the “In Isolation” project?

Remembering how we affect and are affected by each other’s actions is so important right now. I’m starting to see the negative space surrounding my houses as a natural force on the surface. No matter how careful we are, nature and this virus are often beyond our control. I try to emphasize that in these works by pulling the black or white of the background across the boundary of the home and vice-versa.

“Seth Clark: In Isolation” exhibition artworks
“Seth Clark: In Isolation” exhibition artworks

– How is being an artist during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I consider myself very lucky to be an artist right now. Many people are stuck at home or at least unable to go out and about as usual. This can easily lead to boredom, restlessness, and depression. I am very fortunate always to have art to turn to as a source of therapy, inspiration, and activity during these difficult times.

Seth Clark studio shot

– Can you give a little bit of insight into the process of making your works?

I start by collaging with various painted, aged, and found papers. Once that underpainting (of collage) is complete, I will use various mixed media to bring life to the forms. Ink or acrylic washes are applied as well as charcoal, graphite, and pastel for rendering and mark making. The process of collage and drawing alternate between themselves until things are resolved. 

– If you could describe the overall style of your work, what would that description be?

Layering and layering with many fragmented pieces of the past to create some new type of reality.