Artwork / Mutually Beneficial

I met my subjects for this series on the Internet, but I did not use an online dating service with fees and forms. I found my models through the personal ads that they had posted on Craig’s List Portland.

Craig’s List is a place to find various goods and services as well as social events, a job, a roof over your head, or even a honey. And though the List is a worldwide phenomenon, Craig’s List is local in its manifestations. There are over two hundred Craig’s List websites specific to over two hundred cities internationally. Go to and see how Portland can feed you, house you, or fun you. You’ll learn so much about your city through this free and free-form tool for connecting within your community.

Through it, I learned about seven men. Six of them posted in the “men seeking women” section, and their personal ads emphasized their ability to provide financially for a female companion. I answered their posts not as a potential girlfriend, but as an artist interested in the “male as provider” and “female as provided-for” relationship roles.

Originally, I intended the series to include just these six along with a self-portrait, but when I met my now-partner through the artists forum on the List, the concept for the series shifted dramatically. Before I initiated these Internet encounters, I already knew I didn’t need a man to support me financially. I didn’t need it, and I didn’t want it. But it was not until I met David that I understood that I do need a man to support me both emotionally and in my work. I need another artist, another dreamer.

photo of Gwenn Seemel by Ross William Hamiton with The Oregonian
photo by Ross William Hamiton with The Oregonian

“Seemel’s project is really a complex performance-art piece—sort-of real life reality television.”

- DK Row, The Oregonian, April 2006

“‘A single brushstroke can change the entire expression. There’s always a new face.’ If so, it seems likely that Seemel will find it.”

- Eric Bartels, Portland Tribune, April 2006

Mutually Beneficial showed in April 2006 at Concrete the Studio in Portland, Oregon.