When my pal Jerry and I planned to visit Alan Cottrill’s studio, Jerry arranged for us to also meet artist Mike Seiler in his downtown Zanesville studio. Little did we know that we would also meet Mike’s wife Kathy and that the studio is also their home.
I will be very honest with you. Jerry arranged the visit but I had little understanding of where we were going or why. Nor did I care. I was simply delighted for the adventure.
So imagine my surprise when Mike opened the door and welcomed us into their kitchen! Kathy, who was sitting at their dining table potting seeds, welcomed me with a smile. “You must be Brandi” she exclaimed.
We chatted about the Four O’Clocks she was planting and about the therapeutical qualities of having hands in soil. Then she asked if I was interested in architecture and she whisked me away on a tour of their home.
It is an old Christian Science Church that they have thoughtfully transformed into a studio/home that feels both spacious and intimate. Their home is filled with color, life and creativity. It’s positively inspiring.
And then there’s the art. Oh my goodness. Mike’s paintings are astounding. You won’t believe the medium he is working with. It’s liquid asphalt and alkyd. The asphalt is shiny and smooth and it reflects the colors around it.
The results are extraordinary. I especially appreciate the way it changes and seems to be alive in the light. It looks different when you stand close than it does when you view it from across the room.
He can skillfully explain the science behind the art and even makes the science sound like an art form. I absorbed none of that but did absorb the beauty of it all.
Kathy is a prolific poet who gifted me a volume of her work. She writes independently and he paints independently but they pair their works, finding poems and paintings with similar emotional tone. It’s a lovely collaboration too.
Another meaningful collaboration is their marriage as they clearly are partners in every way. They held court on the sofa while Jerry and I sat on the edge of our seats. They finished each other’s sentence as they shared their life stories. And what a fascinating life it has been!
He recalled a conservative religious upbringing where he knew from the age of two he would be an artist. A home next door was inhabited by a series of artists who exposed him to an intriguing new world. From a scantily clad bohemian woman who kept a skull as part of a still life on her kitchen table to a man who introduced him to clay, these years were clearly formative in more ways than one.
Kathy has a gentleness about her and a sense of faith that clearly defines her actions and thoughts. She said that they met in college and decided to marry when they realized they would be better together than apart.
There is evidence this is true. They have devoted themselves to making the world a better place. Their current project is in their own neighborhood where they are rehabbing their community one structure at a time. They have actively pushed out drug dealers and prostitutes, replacing them with families and artists. They foster a sense of community among their neighbors where they look out for each other and where art and beauty are central to the community’s health.
They have worked hard and it shows. They are near what many would call retirement age but don’t appear to be slowing down at all. I believe they said they are now rehabbing their sixth structure and when I asked why they are still at it, their answer was simultaneous and heartwarming. They do it because they can and because it matters.
Every town should have people like Mike and Kathy who take it on themselves to serve others and to build rather than tear down.
Friends, Jerry and I went to see art but what we found was so much more than paintings. The life they have built together is beautiful. The conversation we had seemed like something from a grand design, a conversation we were meant to have. I’m grateful to them for so generously opening their home to us.