Art In Life: Seiler’s Studio And Gallery

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.

Want to know more? Click here to visit their website. There’s a really nice video where Mike explains why art matters. You really should watch it so click here and do that now.

Through Vincent’s Eyes

After stepping into Van Gogh’s world and paintings at Immersive Van Gogh, I drove across town to the Columbus Museum of Art. Here I was able to take a step back and enjoy the real paintings.

They currently have a special exhibition called “Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources.” There are several paintings and drawings by Van Gogh himself along side a carefully curated collection of artwork that inspired him.

It’s easy to spot the Van Gogh pieces as they are all presented on an electric blue wall. While it makes them stand out, I found the blue wall distracting. Nonetheless, it was pretty incredible to stand in the presence of the work of this remarkable artist.

I most appreciated the commentary that accompanies each work of art. Curators used Van Gogh’s own words to describe each work and what he took away from it.

I was partial to several including French Modernist Armand Guillaumin who often exhibited with the Impressionists. Van Gogh frequently used books and flowers in his work as well.

Then there was Danish-French Impressionist Camille Pissarro who often looked for inspiration around the fields and gardens near his Normandy home.

I also liked Dutch Realist Anton Mauve whose oil on canvas “Carting the Log” reminded me of my family who have been loggers and sawmill workers for generations.

Narcisse Virgilio Diaz de la Pena, a French painter of the Barbizon school was one of my favorites because the light and color are extraordinary.

This event requires an additional ticket on top of your museum admission but is worth every penny. Take your time and enjoy!

Want to read about the Immersive Van Gogh experience? Click here!

The Only Da Vinci In America

The only place in America where you will find a Leonardo da Vinci painting is the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

It is not large, measuring in at just 16.5”x 14.5” on wood. I read that it’s an early work of his and quite rare as he painted fewer than twenty oil paintings in his lifetime. Even the wealthiest American collectors can’t acquire them as European collectors have held on to these rare gems for generations. Acquiring this painting was quite an achievement for this museum.

Dating to the 1470s, it features the teenage daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker. On the reverse side is a painted wreath.

This museum has the best collection of Italian art in America and this is the most important piece in that collection. Consequently, this area of the museum was quite busy and the Da Vinci maintained a steady crowd.

Incidentally, we learned about it when I struck up a conversation with a museum employee. I always ask employees if they have a favorite thing to see and he was quick to recommend this and another piece.

The National Gallery of Art is enormous and is made up of two buildings connected underground. Learn more at their website.