Can a person be a work of art? Regarding Scott Seekins

by Sarah Harper


“I don't allow anybody to change me. I still walk outta my house in rollers and I take walks. I do not care what people think.”

-Britney Spears, MSNBC interview.



Scott Seekins – the suit-wearing good luck charm of a local celebrity – just opened his new exhibition this weekend. “This Time It's Forever: Portrait Interpretations of the Icon: Scott Seekins,” began on Friday and closes this Saturday at Gallery 13.

Seekins’ own paintings mingle with those of local artists, who have painted portraits of Seekins. Seekins, Seekins, Seekins. It’s all about him. Seekins sees himself – his walking, talking, smiling body – as art. And others do too. In a 2006 profile of Seekins, Alex Starace wrote, “If nothing else, his persistence is phenomenal, so much so that, after hearing he’s been quoted as saying, ‘I am art,’ I’m convinced that he’s right: he, himself, Scott Seekins the personage, is a piece of art.”

Every city probably has its own Scott Seekins – a highly-visible eccentric, known for being in your elevator and at your block party and outside your bar and behind you in line at the coffee shop and all the while, showing you a binder of his artwork.

And then there’s a whole club of national Scott Seekins. They aren’t just visual performance artists like Marina Abramovic, who can make people cry just by staring. People like Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono, who wear meat dresses and tweet bizarrely, are card-carrying members. They force us to reckon with the idea that art doesn’t have to be something that one creates to put in a gallery – it can be something that someone is, at every moment of every day.

There are times that this person-as-art thing screams of hubris. You think you’re art? You think there’s something so spectacular about you that you yourself are a piece of art? (More like a piece of work, right?)

Really though, what makes Scott Seekins such a masterpiece? And what does that make the rest of us? Are we just watercolor paintings hanging up at the dentist’s office? 

I have to remind myself that there’s an inherent cocksurety to any artistic endeavor – if artists don't operate under the assumption that others are interested in what’s happening in their heads, they won't express the things that are happening in all of our heads. So I have to take a few steps back and say: most of the time, the person-as-art thing screams of innovation, not hubris. It’s easier to feel an emotional connection to a human being than a piece of cloth stretched tightly over a frame. And by cutting out the middle man of the canvas, or the video, or the sculpture, we’re just making the expression just a little smoother.