For about ten minutes, I’ve been sipping wine and staring at a 3′ square canvas layered in right-angle stepwise pattern, in colors like electrified autumn leaves, and I have that feeling you get after ransacking the house for your keys.
And that’s when I realize–it’s too loud in here.
It’s no reflection on the venue or the planners of the event. It’s probably just me. Seth’s art speaks to people in really unpredictable ways, and what I’ve found is that for me, the first connection it makes is with music. Each of his paintings rings in my ears with some distinct song–music that I might have heard long ago, or recently, or only once, or ten times. Or, in the case of his 2010 painting “Big Bird,” fifty million times. (That one played “Kind of Blue.” Don’t ask me why.)
I’m not crazy, by the way, or even special–this is a well-documented phenomenon in science. (Science, okay?) I’m sure there are others in the room that have the same experience. Or it could be they taste Seth’s paintings, or feel sensations in their fingers. His work is a synesthete’s dream.
But for me, it’s music that it translates to. And so the din of voices, music and clinking glass–which the movies indicate are par for the course during an art gallery show–interferes with the experience.
Looking at them online is less powerful, of course, than seeing them full size, with brush strokes, against a flat white wall. But I can hear them better. “The Confusion of Spring” breaks into the overture of Bizet’s Carmen. “SeaGull and Funnel Cake and Sunblock” sounds alternately like Camille Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” and the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
And the eight paintings that compose his titular series, “A Reason for E’ry Time”–well, those I’m still getting to know. They’re harder to interpret, I guess because their tonal variation is lesser. Each is built with a similar set of colors. Taken as all eight together, they sound something like the slow part in the middle of “Rodeo.” The purple one makes me hear traffic noises in the fog; the yellow one sounds like that song from Sesame Street “Manamana,” or would, if the song were in a minor key.
Mark Fedeli, the gallery founder, tells a story of how he gave the eulogy at his father’s funeral, and afterward received a painting from Seth rendering the things he had said into colors and pattern. When he sees the painting hanging on his wall, he sees his feelings with a resonance and immediacy that is beyond words.