Artwork / Mutually Beneficial / Delightfully Naïve and It Doesn’t Matter

portrait of a young couple
Gwenn Seemel
Delightfully Naïve and It Doesn’t Matter
acrylic on canvas patchwork
20 x 40 inches (combined dimensions)

I wrote the following personal ad to reveal the way that the “male as provider” and “female as provided-for” relationship roles damage everyone involved. It is a kind of artist statement for Mutually Beneficial as a series. I did not run this post while I was gathering my subjects for the series; I only responded to ads.

Starving artist seeks meal-ticket, patron, sugar daddy. - 24

Reply to: anonPOST-123

SWF, 5 feet 10 inches, 39-30-41, healthy, long-legged, blonde, grey-blue eyes, stubborn, lively, independent, delightfully naïve, grateful.

Mutually Beneficial was a journey for me in a way no other series has been. My previous work was ultimately about the subjects: I only served as a connection point to a world that many viewers had not necessarily considered before seeing my work. Of course Mutually Beneficial is about my six Internet friends and their search for companionship, but, in a very real way, it is also about me finding what I didn’t even know I was looking for.

When I began work on the series, I was creating around the idea of artists selling themselves instead of their work. From finding themselves a sugar daddy to taking a day job they hate, artists compromise themselves too often. And their actions allow society to discount the importance of artists. To the detriment of both, the community and its dreamers fall away from one another.

Mutually Beneficial takes to task the common phrase “for love or money.” Why does it have to be one or the other? What does it say about our society that we have a phrase to so aptly name people’s frustration with their careers, whether they are in the arts or any other field? Mutually Beneficial was about evaluating what I am willing to do to follow my dream.

By August 2005, I had gathered plenty of data about what an artist might do in order to survive; I had explored the world of Internet dating and modern gender roles to my satisfaction. My goal had been to persuade five men to sit for me, and I had just interviewed the fifth. I would not be painting the beaus until winter. In other words, by late summer, I was done with Mutually Beneficial for the time being. Or so I thought...

Do You Work With STORIES?

Reply to: commPOST-123
Date: 2005-08-04, 9:41PM PDT

You could be a writer, painter, artist, teacher, or truck driver, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you do, if there is an element of story to it, I’d like to interview you. I’m a graduate student looking for common themes and clues. We can meet at a coffee shop, talk on the telephone, or just email. Thanks!

I came across this post in the artists’ forum on Craig’s List. I responded, pointing the poster to my website. We met one afternoon and talked for hours, until both our stomachs were grumbling—starving artists indeed. Surprising myself and him, I invited him home for dinner.

For a month, we took each other on adventures around the city—“adventures,” I insisted, but they were dates. On one such adventure towards the beginning of that fall, we kissed.

Before I initiated these many 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. I need him.

We married in 2013.

portrait of a young blond woman
detail image
portrait of a white man
detail image