Blog / 2021 / The Elephant in the Room

October 29, 2021

[video transcript]

It was around this time last year that I was actively working to delete the Zuckerverse and I continue to be amazed by the ways that decision did and did not change my life, but one thing is for certain: I wouldn’t be live painting a series about mental health if I’d stayed on Facebook.

Mondays from 7p to 8p EDT
Thursdays from 12p to 1p EDT

Everything’s Fine, the work I’m making on Twitch, originated in three paintings I made in 2019 about my main sources of anxiety: my solastalgia, the patriarchy, and the grey matter inside my skull. In one of those funny little coincidences, these works are part of Princeton University’s Unique Minds: Creative Voices show this November!

Unique Minds: Creative Voices
CoLab at the Lewis Center for the Arts Complex
Princeton University
122 Alexander Street
Princeton, NJ 08540

Virtual reception: November 1st at 5:45p EDT, register here

pink woolly mammoth pretending to be a circus elephant balancing on a ball
Gwenn Seemel
The Woolly Mammoth in the Room
acrylic on wood
10 x 8 inches

The woolly mammoth isn’t for sale until I figure out what I’m doing with the series, but there are prints and pretty things with this image here in my print shop.

pink woolly mammoth painting by wildlife artist Gwenn Seemel
detail of The Woolly Mammoth in the Room

Every week, for at least two hours, I paint about mental health while also talking about it. In other words, I’m making a real effort to acknowledge the elephant in the room—or, as is the case for me, the pink woolly mammoth balancing on a ball and holding balloons in the circus-tent-style room of my imagination. This is one of the paintings from Everything’s Fine, which is the series of surrealist images that I work on during these two-plus hours a week.

Not only am I committed to these hours—Monday evening from 7 to 8, New York time, and Thursday from noon to 1—but I’m committed to doing these hours in public. I live paint on Twitch, a platform that allows an artist to broadcast from their studio while friends interact with them via a text chat.

The ritual of it—broadcasting every week at the same time—it’s been weirdly satisfying. I’m not great at being live: especially when I’m both painting and talking and especially especially when I’m painting and talking in two languages! (I speak French as well as English when I know there are French-speakers listening.)

Doing a thing I’m not very good at and doing it publicly for an hour at a time is basically the exact opposite of the years I spent on Facebook and Instagram sharing a bite-sized hyper-polished version of my art practice. And it. Is. Glorious.

It reminds me of why I deleted Zuckerberg’s empire of fake in the first place and of how I still need to tidy up my inner world in its aftermath. I need to acknowledge all the ways that social media shaped me along with my art career, and then I want to strip those effects away as much as possible.

Like the proverbial elephant in the room, my brokenness is big, but it also feels ancient—not in that it’s extinct, but in that it feels like it comes from an era before time and certainly before Facebook. My brokenness has been doing its best to fit in with the flow of my life so far, playing along with the circus in my mind and generally putting on a good show. But I’m tired of pretending, and this new series of images painted in public is showing me how to stop.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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