I am Gwenn Liberty Seemel. My father wanted to name me Liberty Bell Seemel—after the great Philadelphian e-flat chimer—but made the compromise when my mother pointed out that that particular ding-dong is, in fact, cracked.
Born in Saudi Arabia in 1981, I was raised part-time in San Francisco and part-time in a small village in France. In Brittany, I went to the same grammar school my mother did growing up, and I learned to play a mean game of boule bretonne for an 8 year old.
Eventually, my family settled in the United States, in Oregon, and, for 22 years, I was happy there. I attended Jesuit High School in Portland and then studied studio art, art history, and French at Willamette University in Salem. I graduated summa cum laude from that institution in 2003 and immediately launched my art career. In 2013, to celebrate my decade of professional art-making, I wrote a book about art marketing, which you can read or purchase here.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a chronic illness which changed both my personal life and my art dramatically, but, in many ways, the disease has been nothing compared to what life has thrown me in the last few years. Since 2013, I have been living in the middle of whole bunch of development that is being done unethically and without regard for livability or for safety. My neighbors and I have fought for our rights and have been ignored by city hall. I made art about it, and it too has been ignored by Portland’s power players. This situation makes me sad, angry, and very worried. In fact, it has made me leave Portland. As you read this, I am in the process of moving to Virginia with my sweetheart.
I have no doubt that this new adventure will impact my art, and I can’t wait to see how! After all, my painting style has been evolving since I was 15. Without following any particular art movement, I was influenced by everything from volunteering at a retirement home and taking a printmaking class to trying new brushes and injuring my hand. This post on my blog sums up how I developed my technique.
I am drawn to portraits, both individual portraits and portraits in series, a tendency that I explain more in this video. When I paint individuals, it’s often for commission. When I paint groups of people, it’s for the purpose of exploring a particular issue, and I exhibit these groups in conceptual shows, of which Apple Pie and Subjective are two examples.
My last project, however, did not feature portraits. Crime Against Nature is both a series of animal paintings and a children’s book for the kid in all of us, which you can read or purchase here. It explores all the ways women and men in our society feel they have to be in order to be natural, and the book includes a foreword by the evolutionary biologist Dr. Joan Roughgarden.
Last year, I spoke at TEDxGeneva about the role of imitation in creativity. I also released a book that digs deeper into the ideas addressed in the talk. You Share Good reveals why I don’t copyright my art and why other artists might want to consider freeing their work as well.
In 2014, I created a 10 by 38 foot mural of Kirk Reeves, the street performer who died in 2012. The project is on NE Grand at Lloyd in Portland, Oregon, and it was featured on KOIN and KGW as well as in The Oregonian, on this episode of OPB’s State of Wonder, and in a video which filmmaker Ifanyi Bell created for Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“You’re not a proper patron of Portland’s arts scene until you’ve...had your portrait painted by Gwenn Seemel.”
At the beginning of 2014, I talked with the Creative Insurgents crew about art marketing, copyright, and the creative life. You can catch the interview here.
“Seemel’s book [Crime Against Nature] covers it all and reminds us that if you’re inclined to look to nature for answers regarding what is ‘normal,’ ‘natural,’ or even ‘moral,’ it’s clear that nature passes no judgement.”
“The glimpses that Seemel has illustrated of the real wildness of the natural world [in Crime Against Nature] are fascinating.”
“The issues at play [in Crime Against Nature] are hefty and potentially uncomfortable, but the book itself is light, playful, and pleasantly un-preachy.”
“My hat is off to Gwenn Seemel for embodying so well the ideals of the free culture movement!”
Born 1981, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
2012 - Crime Against Nature, Place, Portland, Oregon.
2011 - Subjective, Art Festival Museum, Edmonds, Washington -- in collaboration with Becca Bernstein.
2010 - Subjective, Pence Gallery, Bend, Oregon -- in collaboration with Becca Bernstein.
2010 - Subjective, Arts Center, Corvallis, Oregon -- in collaboration with Becca Bernstein.
2010 - Subjective, North View Gallery, Portland, Oregon -- in collaboration with Becca Bernstein.
2009 - Apple Pie, Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, Eugene, Oregon.
2008 - Apple Pie, Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Portland, Oregon.
2007 - Swollen, Littman Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
2006 - Mutually Beneficial, Concrete, Portland, Oregon.
2005 - Public Faces, City Club of Portland, Portland, Oregon.
2005 - Private Masks, Starling Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
2004 - Snow Days, Northwest Sony Only, Portland, Oregon.
2004 - Trickster Project, Backdoor Theater, Portland, Oregon.
2003 - Critics Critiqued, Visage, Portland, Oregon.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
2015 - Widening the Cycle, Suffolk University’s SMCR Conference, Boston, Massachusetts.
2014 - Art Beat Exhibition, Peoples Art, Portland, Oregon.
2014 - Portraits 2, Mark Woolley Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
2013 - The Art of Science Policy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC.
2013 - A Chronicle of Influence, Museum and ARTspace, Lake Oswego, Oregon.
2012 - Image, Identity, Allegory, Dan and Gail Cannon Gallery of Art, Monmouth, Oregon.
2011 - A Somewhat Secret Place, PRESENTspace, Portland, Oregon.
2010 - Spread Ego, Place, Portland, Oregon.
2010 - Resonance, Anka Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
2010 - Views and Reviews, Willamette University’s Art Building Gallery, Salem, Oregon.
2009 - Mixed, Lewis and Clark College’s Ray Warren Multicultural Symposium, Portland, Oregon.
2008 - A Brief History, Littman Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
2008 - Keep Portland Weird, City Hall, Portland, Oregon.
2007 - PDX Panels, Portland Art Center, Portland, Oregon.
2006 - inCLOVER, Mount Scott Park, Portland, Oregon.
2006 - Boredom: I Learned it by Watching You, Portland Art Center, Portland, Oregon.
2003 - Recent Graduate Show, Blackfish Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
2003 - Senior Art Show, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem, Oregon.
2014 - City of Portland’s Public Works Collection, Portland, Oregon.
2012 - Regional Arts and Culture Council’s Portable Works Collection, Portland, Oregon.
2010 - Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem, Oregon.
2003 - Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.
2015 - Professional Artist August 2015, art magazine article featuring Gwenn’s writing and art.
2015 - Widening the Cycle, exhibition catalog featuring Gwenn’s art.
2015 - Professional Artist April 2015, art magazine article featuring Gwenn’s writing and art.
2014 - Painting in Acrylics: The Indispensible Guide, book by Lorena Kloosterboer featuring Gwenn’s art.
2014 - You Share Good, e-book by Gwenn encouraging artists to question copyright.
2013 - Art Marketing, e-book by Gwenn celebrating a decade as a working artist.
2013 - T(OUR) April 2013, literary art magazine featuring Gwenn’s art.
2012 - Crime Against Nature, book by Gwenn with foreword by Joan Roughgarden.
2010 - Subjective, exhibition catalog featuring Gwenn’s art with foreword by Richard Brilliant.
2008 - Apple Pie, exhibition catalog featuring Gwenn’s art with foreword by Inara Verzemnieks.
SOME REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS:
2015 - Les portraits et les idées de Gwenn Seemel, Pigmentropie, Elize.
2014 - Of mouse and man, Willamette Week, John Locanthi.
2014 - You’re not a proper patron of Portland’s arts scene until you’ve..., Willamette Week, staff.
2014 - Portland’s patron saint, now in mural form, The ZehnKatzen Times, Samuel John Klein.
2014 - ‘Working’ Kirk Reeves is honored in new mural, The Oregonian, James Reddick.
2014 - Réflexion: Citer ses sources d’inspiration en tant qu’artiste, Toc-Arts, Lilian Ricaud.
2014 - Creative spirit Gwenn Seemel, Artist Think, Carrie Brummer.
2013 - Both artists and scientists observe, ask questions, even propose solutions, AAAS.org, Kat Zambon.
2013 - Sex, gender, and us animals: Exposing the true crime against nature, About.com, Cory Silverberg.
2013 - Is homosexuality natural?, Symbiartic on Scientific American, Kalliopi Monoyios.
2013 - Love in the wild, Apartment Therapy, Tess Wilson.
2013 - Painter illustrates the diversity of sex and gender, Hyperallergic, Allison Meier.
2013 - Our crime against nature, The Quiet Lunch, editor.
2013 - Crime against nature, BoingBoing, Maggie Koerth-Baker.
2012 - Les bonnes recettes du libre, OWNI, Lionel Maurel.
2012 - Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery, Tech Dirt, Leigh Beadon.
2010 - HOWTO make art without getting ‘ripped off’ online, BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow.
2010 - Paint by numbers, The Portland Business Journal, Matthew Kish.
2010 - 1 Project, 2 artists, 10 subjects make a world of difference, The Oregonian, Margie Boulé.
2009 - Interview: Gwenn Seemel, Sweet Station, Welshie.
2009 - DK’s Hot Sheet, The Oregonian, DK Row.
2009 - Art for politic’s sake, The Oregonian, editor.
2009 - Leonard portrait is flattering, all right, Oregon Live, Mary Kitch.
2007 - Faces from the edge of the earth, The Oregonian, Inara Verzemnieks.
2007 - Before and after, Just Out, Jim Radosta.
2006 - In the market for some portraits, The Oregonian, DK Row.
SOME TELEVISION, RADIO, VIDEO AND AUDIO INTERVIEWS:
2014 - OPBWeb, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Ifanyi Bell.
2014 - State of Wonder, Oregon Public Broadcasting, April Baer and Ifanyi Bell.
2014 - Creative Insurgents, Cory Huff and Melissa Dinwiddie.
2013 - The Abundant Artist, Cory Huff.
2013 - CultureWok, Gaëlle Pertot.
2012 - CubFluffer, Gabe Flores and Mark Martinez.
2010 - 10 O’Clock News, KPTV, Sophie Soong.
2010 - Oregon Art Beat, Oregon Public Broadcasting, KC Cowan.
2008 - EZone, PDX49, Chloe Houser and Darcy Zettler.
2004 - 10 O’Clock News, KPTV, Shauna Parsons.
2003 - Artstar Radio, KPSU, Eva Lake.
SOME LECTURES AND CONFERENCES:
2014 - Panelist, Creative Clubhouse with Maker’s Nation, Portland, Oregon.
2014 - Storyteller, Superthank, Portland, Oregon.
2014 - Panelist, Stories from the field with the RACC, Portland, Oregon.
2014 - Speaker, TEDxGeneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
2014 - Featured artist, Journée du domaine public, Toulouse, France.
2014 - Teacher, Soul Food, workshop series on the Web.
2013 - Speaker, Visualizing Science Policy in 20x20, with the AAAS, Washington, DC.
2013 - Guest artist, Washington State University, Vancouver, Washington.
2013 - Guest artist, David Douglas High School, Portland, Oregon.
2013 - Guest artist, Portland Community College, Portland, Oregon.
2013 - Speaker, Freedom to Connect, Washington, DC.
2011 - Guest artist, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.
2011 - Guest artist, Oregon Art Education Association Conference, Eugene, Oregon.
2010 - Guest artist, Riverside Brookfield High School, Riverside, Illinois.
2009 - Guest artist, Oregon Society of Artists, Portland, Oregon.
2009 - Speaker, Pecha Kucha Night, Eugene, Oregon.
2009 - Guest artist, Madison High School, Portland, Oregon.
2008 - Storyteller, Super Project Lab, Portland, Oregon.
2007 - Guest artist, Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, Oregon.
2013 - Curators’ Award, Festival of the Arts, Lake Oswego, Oregon.
2012 - Emergency Relief Grant, Haven Foundation, Brewer, Maine.
2012 - Emergency Relief Grant, Artists’ Fellowship Inc, New York, New York.
2012 - Project Grant, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Portland, Oregon.
2011 - Featured Blogger, BlogHer Money.
2011 - Kickstarter, crowd-sourced funding via the Web.
2010 - Emergency Relief Grant, Haven Foundation, Brewer, Maine.
2009 - Emergency Relief Grant, Artists’ Fellowship Inc, New York, New York.
2009 - Emergency Relief Grant, Change Inc, Captiva, Florida.
2009 - Project Grant, Celebration Foundation, Portland, Oregon.
2009 - Career Opportunity Grant, Oregon Arts Commission, Salem, Oregon.
2008 - Project Grant, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Portland, Oregon.
2003 - Member of Phi Beta Kappa.
2003 - BA in Studio Art and French, summa cum laude, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.
2002 - Magenia, Ella Jaroszewicz’s school for mime and dance, Paris, France.