We're excited to kick off our new group of artist interviews with Arizona artist Seth Trent, whose sculpture work elaborates concerns with the discrepancies present in American culture. His piece History is now on display in our current exhibition, Collocate.
Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I hail from a small art-less town in Eastern Kentucky. My ancestry is punctuated by moon-shiners, farmers, builders, and mechanics. I make works that balance a duality and tension between craft labor/materials and glorified art objectivity. They are a visualization of the social/cultural concepts I’m trying to communicate.
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
I'm currently caught up in this concept of "American-ness"; it's a faceted concept, so I could explore these concepts for years. An old professor once told me I read too much. He wasn't wrong but I can't just sit in the studio and worry about forms and material, I need something real and happening and relatable first. The art always spring-boards from an interesting topic or something happening in the contemporary. The more I read and research the more ideas come, and the easier it is to make artwork that people can relate to. I couldn't make what I consider meaningful artworks without the research and awareness. Pretty objects aren't enough for me.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I'd say my most important tool for me is the ability to let go and move on when a project is doomed or just not connecting. I used to work a lot with clay and you have to accept terrible losses on a daily basis and move on. I'm pretty A.D.H.D. in that sense, I'm always jumping to a new material or process because I get bored easily if the project doesn't resonate enough. I can't be a one-trick pony. So many young artists are led to believe everything you touch is sacred and great and it's not always true, learn to let go.
What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
Being young and fresh out of graduate school is crippling in every respect. Financially. Artistically. Psychologically. You've got enough education and skills to have a value, but not enough experience to be considered a strong candidate for professorships right away. The first few months out of academia are crucial because nobody is breathing down your neck to make work. To keep making work amidst an inbox full of rejection emails is an indicator that you really do love making art. Learning to balance a work life and your art is a huge struggle.
What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?
Apart from the overall arch of "American-ness" something that always recurs is an interest in people. You can't talk about culture without talking about it's people and for American culture that's a huge pool to draw on. A lot of the time agricultural ties and a minimalistic obsession with labor creep in. I know I very easily could have wound up a carpenter or laborer and that push and pull between being an artist and being a laborer has always been constant.
See more of Seth's work at SethTrentArt.com