In his current show at Art Palace, Seth Alverson displays an extraordinary ability to charge seemingly banal subjects with slow-burning menace and mystery--like Bed for One, a simple image of a tiny room with single bed draped in a yellow blanket, viewed from outside the doorway. Alverson intentionally maintains a distance, as if entering the room would cross a psychic boundary. It's like he's withholding essential bits of the story, and it causes us to imagine the worst. It's compelling work.
Art Attack talked with him. Here's some random quotes.
"I basically was dismantling everything I was doing, because what I was doing before were these large-scale, epic-narrative, allegorical sort of pieces, and I thought it hit a dead end. It was like if you took Norman Rockwell and mixed it with Frank Frazetta, and then mixed that with, I don't know, maybe high-class Paper City sort of stuff."
"The way the human mind works, we see things, and whenever our eyes pick it up and it goes into our brains, well, it gets split into a million different pieces, and it's totally random at that point, and our brains piece it together based on all of our previous experiences and everything else that we've perceived before. So I kind of started working like that. Sort of like a trap-and-release method. I would come across something on the internet, or I would cannibalize one of my previous paintings to turn it into something else. Just trying to figure out visual meaning."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I have a huge image bank of stuff that I find on the internet or magazines or whatever. If it grabs me, for whatever reason, I just sort of keep it and hang onto it. And there was just some thing weird about that bed. The colors were a little different; I added an extra wall; I cropped it in a certain way. I thought the bed should be very warm and inviting, but ultimately it's not. I don't want to sleep in that bed. For me, this painting is a metaphor for death, and this bed serves as a coffin, because there's only one person that can fit on it. I think that's what was going on subconsciously when I was attracted to that image in the first place."
"I've been really inspired by the old Flemish masters. They didn't really plan a whole lot. Or they weren't really painting from life or from observation. It was a precognitive approach to painting. The proportion's off; the perspective's off. But it didn't really bother them that much. They would just go at it with this minute, awesome attention to detail, and it charges the images psychologically and emotionally."
"I have kind of an antagonistic relationship with photography. I hate it, but I also use it. I don't know I just have a lot of problems with it. This might be kind of out there (I don't want to go on a diatribe about it), but I think that aesthetics is really important, and the way that we see the world is, ultimately, through a lens. From TV to magazines and every form of media we get, it comes through some sort of a camera. I think that shapes how we perceive reality and how we form visual meaning."
"I'm part of this group called Sketch Klubb, and we hang out all the time and just draw stupid shit. It started in 2005. Me and a few other buddies would get together to, I don't know, this sounds bad, but just to get away from our wives and girlfriends for a day and just talk about dude stuff, you know, talk about boobs and penises and whatever else we wanted that, you know, adult females frown upon. And we were all artists, so we'd just hang out and draw stupid pictures. It still has a very juvenile, really retarded vibe. There's nothing serious about it whatsoever. It's really just a way to blow off steam."