If U Seek(ins) Amy

Local celebrity Scott Seekins is Minneapolis’ resident 21st century vagabond artist.

A photo in one of Seekin's sign photography series, which was taken by Target Inc. photographer turned fashion artist John Christenson. PHOTO COURTESY SCOTT SEEKINS

Ashley Goetz

A photo in one of Seekin’s sign photography series, which was taken by Target Inc. photographer turned fashion artist John Christenson. PHOTO COURTESY SCOTT SEEKINS

In his gallery on North Hennepin, Minneapolis-based artist/wanderer/snake-hunter Scott Seekins looks more like a sculptured caricature of an intellectual painter than an actual artist. With thick, curly black extensions bound by a black velvet headband, super-circular tortoise shell glasses and a black suit, Seekins is an instantly recognizable Minneapolis icon. Everyone has seen him somewhere, wandering through campusâÄôs West Bank, enjoying a coffee in Uptown or even at a show on the dank floor of First Avenue. The peculiar artist is best known for the âÄúBritney coveâÄù inside his miniature studio two stories above Nick & Eddie bar. The cove features hand-painted renditions of American icon Britney Spears painted in various styles, usually featuring love scenes between Seekins and Spears. He says, âÄúI really think they are some of the best Britney paintings in the country,âÄù and indeed, he is not exaggerating. The Britney work began back in 2001, when Seekins reflected on the cultural power of Britney Spears and the way that fans connect emotionally to the performer. The cove now houses a cartoon-like painting of a disheveled Seekins and Spears washed ashore after a plane crash, but Britney revels most in the more classical portrait of the Garden of Eden and post-impressionist Gauguin -inspired portraits on burlap sacks that have been stretched as canvas. The gallery goes on to show everything from Seurat- esque impressionist portraitures to humorous paintings featuring a sickened Spears being rolled frantically into an Entertainment Tonight ambulance. Seekins attended SpearsâÄô concert at the Target Center on April 4. Even though he sat far away in a balcony seat, he was surprised by the power and production of the show. âÄúNot a seat was empty. Though the crowd was mostly women âĦ it seemed to be a major display of love âĦ a great emotional connection. SheâÄôs incredibly powerful.âÄù Seekins admits that Spears is not an extraordinary singer, but asserts that there is something indefinable about the pop star that sets her apart from all other imitators. Future Britney content notwithstanding, Seekins also works on other forms of art. A photography series he has been working on since 2006 features the work of several local photographers, including former employees of Target Inc., a 19-year-old German MCAD student and Tom Wallace, a photographer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune . Each photo in the series is a portrait of Seekins holding a self-weathered sign to passersby of the Walker Art Center. He is shown standing in the median of the Hennepin/Lyndale intersection, holding signs that say anything from Japanese words for âÄúAs pale as death,âÄù to âÄúChat, cruise, connectâÄù in Swedish. One sign said, in Arabic, âÄúShock and aweâÄù âÄî a little poke at Mr. RumsfeldâÄôs warfare tactic. Sure, Seekins is an excellent artist, but what escalates him into Minnesotan iconographic status? Surely, it is the stringent dress code he holds himself to. In the winter, Seekins wears exclusively black suits he picks up from antique consignment stores and thrift shops. He adorns them with intricate pins and brooches, elegant statement accessories that add a little flair and thought to his appearance. In the spring and summer, he switches to white suits. He says, âÄúI have to throw most of them away every year. When they are antiques like this, they wear out easily.âÄù Seekins began alternating between suit colors at the age of 21, around 40 years ago. His dress code may seem strange, but it gets him recognized âĦ and remembered. WhatâÄôs more is that Seekins even has a Facebook fan page completely autonomous from him. He says, âÄúItâÄôs funny, but it isnâÄôt me. IâÄôm never on the internet.âÄù The fan page features âÄúSeekins sightingsâÄù outside of Bryant Lake Bowl or inside the IDS Crystal Court downtown . Some of the nearly 1,400 fans have even uploaded photos of themselves dressed up as the unconventional aesthete for Halloween. Peering through the windows in local-based Cliché or riding the bus from one end of the metro to the other, Seekins is not only an art installation on foot, but a symbol of the city. When wandering the street, Seekins carries his prints with him in thick pink binders as a sort of walking gallery that he likens to a traveling gypsy shop. Prints of his work are available for $100 each. If spotted resting in Nick & Eddie, his pseudo-office space that also displays two of his paintings prominently, Seekins is glad to walk visitors up the two flights of stairs to see the original paintings in his studio, Room 307. He will happily walk through his lifeâÄôs work, pointing out the meanings of each of his paintings. Even though he is often mistaken for one because he is so soft-spoken, Seekins doesnâÄôt agree with accusations that he is a pseudo-intellectual, pretentious, high-brow artist. âÄúIâÄôm an observer. IâÄôm a historian, but IâÄôm not an activist.âÄù Seekins is often embraced for his eccentricity, but he has faced adversity in the past. He says, âÄúEveryone has the right to be different, but they sometimes pay the price.âÄù Shortly after the destruction of the World Trade Center, Seekins was physically attacked outside of Bryant Lake Bowl in August 2002 simply because he looked different and it upset his assailant. In reference to the attacks he has faced, Seekins says, âÄú[Minneapolis is] smiley-faced on the surface, but deep down itâÄôs a conservative town.âÄù This adversity has inspired a lot of his recent artwork: a comic-inspired painting featuring Batman giving Seekins a swift uppercut and a new rendition of Leonardo da VinciâÄôs âÄúThe Last Supper,âÄù with Seekins substituted for Judas Iscariot. This isnâÄôt to say that Seekins holds a grudge against his home state; he maintains that he will never move away from Minneapolis permanently. Growing up in South St. Paul and eventually attending Minneapolis College of Art and Design , he has discovered that âÄúanyone that stays here for more than six months ends up staying forever âĦ Those that move away come back âĦ often with their tail betwixt their legs.âÄù WhatâÄôs next for Seekins? HeâÄôs currently planning a video project called the âÄúBritney brook,âÄù where he plans to walk along the Mississippi River, discovering his paintings of Britney in the brush or leaning up against tall maple trees. âÄúI am thinking of painting on a rock and setting it in the water. Then a camera can zoom in, and her face will show through the water.âÄù