3 Questions Digital Series

Seth Tane

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Seth Tane, who speaks about his creative process and artwork at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Muscat, Oman.

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My name is Seth Tane, I’m a visual artist, I primarily work in the oil, on the cattle. I also do some sculpture and video. When I was twelve or 13, I was allowed to bicycle into the city from the island where I live and hang out in the village and go to these events.

And I was at the Whitney and MoMA looking at work that really inspired me. Steel sculpture primarily fascinated me because I am naturally a maker of things. I like working with my hands. And eventually I got serious enough about it that there was no question this is what I wanted to do.

Tried to embed into reality and I stayed for the first year and then left to be an artist. I didn’t want to teach. I didn’t mean a diploma, and I made the first stab at a mobile studio because I wanted to make playing air sculpture.

Feeling that proximity to the inspiring source material was essential to faithfulness in my work. So I built the studio on a truck and took off from Providence and across the country making little sculptures. My very last gig, I served as a federal court appointed monitor in an ocean pollution case, so I was riding around 4 million barrel tankers

in and out of San Francisco in Puget Sound. I was an artist with a camera. I was a fly on the wall. I would have paid to do this and I was being paid attorney’s wages. So now I come back to painting.

The first thing I know is this maritime experience. So the first paintings were all ship related. I had done that in the past, but re finding my way. That was the first. But eventually I got the courage to begin to paint people faces, which is a much harder challenge than the machinery I know so well.

I enjoy working in a range of sizes. I work representational. I feel that it’s a language that needs no translation, no a page of text explanation on the wall adjacent to the range. Most of us perceive the world more or less, so I paint.

I am not a photo realist. I have no interest in imitating or copying the artifacts of photography in pain. I use a camera to capture and create information that later becomes paintings. But I do edit quite a bit in post-production.

Prior to commencing painting, so these images need no translation. They are what they look like. They’re not complicated any more than what they get and what those things might lead to the viewer. The first step in my process is that of inspiration from daily life.

I am one of those people who walks around, typically with a big grin on my face. Everything or nearly everything I see is interesting. So the process becomes one of filtering that enjoyment to try and find things that have more meaning.

I then will typically take a number of photographs of things that speak to the spark that now I’m following. They may all of the multiple images shot in the same place, so I have actually climbed crosswalk signals in Manhattan and stood there on top, with very few people paying any attention and shot hundreds of photographs later to

combine them post-processing into a final image, changing clothing and faces and moving people around and turning them around until I really feel comfortable. There’s nothing extraneous and everything I want is there. Time to start painting. I found that with a digital projector in a dark room, I could paint in full color in the dark.

And it’s the most fun I ever had because you can almost do no wrong. And it’s a way to capture many complex images relatively quickly and produces fully finished paints. The larger ones, of course, the under painting White take more like a week.

Then the projectors turned off, and now you’re into just painting the painting and you can go back to being much more fluid and dynamic in your paint handling because the drawing is in full color in front of.