INTERVIEW: MIMI SETON | ITSLIQUID

INTERVIEW: MIMI SETON

Interviews | September 8, 2022 |

Mimiseton 008
Image courtesy of Mimi Seton

Interview: Mimi Seton
Luca Curci
talks with Mimi Seton during the 15th edition of VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2022, at Palazzo Bembo, the 4th edition of ROME INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2022 at Medina Art Gallery, and the 4th edition of LONDON CONTEMPORARY 2022 at THE LINE London.

Mimi is a native New Yorker known for her peripatetic lifestyle; she has lived in five countries and 27 cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Dublin. Professionally, she spent 40 years in Theatre and Music as a performer and theatre-music “deviser”, making original pieces mainly about women’s issues before a car crash in 2013 left her injured with hyperacusis. This condition made it impossible to continue to work with music. While recovering from the accident, she began to work with photography and photo collaging, adding drawing and painting this past year. Becoming “serious” about Visual Art recently, it is now not only her passion: it is her lifeline. She has also explored many spiritual paths and psycho-therapies over the course of her life, studying Comparative Religion at university, and Depth Psychology with the idea of becoming a therapist in mid-life.

Mimi was privileged to receive hands-on shakti-pat from the head of the Siddha Yoga tradition in 1982: one of the two most unforgettable experiences of her life. The other was a numinous dream she had in which she died and travelled into “the next world”, the dream occurring the day before her father died unexpectedly. In the dream, she received what some call “direct illumination” about our true nature as human beings. Mimi has coached actors, singers and writers since 1980 and worked as a psychic-intuitive off and on for the past 15 years. Her c.v. including press, awards, sample reviews, music and lyric samples, etc. can be read seen on: mimisetonartistsmuse.com or mimisetonmusic.com. Her visual art and photography can be purchased on mimi-seton.pixels.com A Re-Creation Story is her first professional video slideshow. Body Dysmorphia is her second.

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Image courtesy of Mimi Seton

Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Mimi Seton – Although Mimi has worked professionally with some luminaries in Performing Arts and has also studied with a number of known spiritual teachers, she counts her unusual childhood education as the single most important influence on her values and aesthetics. Philosophical by nature, she is descended from generations of writers and journalists and grew up in a highly verbal family culture where social justice was valued. This second-most important influence led her to create a number of pieces on social issues. She began studies in Dance, Acting and piano at age 6 and at age 10, she left home near New York City to attend a progressive boarding school on an organic farm in the Adirondack Mountains. A self-sufficient community, with 64 children and 30 adults, it was she who learned the grammar of classical music which now influences her aesthetics as a visual artist. She also developed her love of Nature and comfort with solitude. Without solitude, it is difficult to imagine accessing one’s own ideas. Fortunately, Mimi was encouraged to write original work for the stage very young; her first play was a story about racism, performed by her classmates for public audiences when she was 11. From there she wrote plays about children and obesity; cultural displacement; rape; sound pollution, and so on. With such philosophers as Rudolf Steiner behind the ethos of the school, the children tended the gardens and animals and spent four hours outside each day. Their diet was Vegan and it seemed that no one ever got sick. The children had no access to TV or Radio and this was decades before cell phones and personal computers took over human life. Several teachers were Quaker and taught problem-solving with emotional intelligence and non-violence. It was a happy – even ideal – way of life for the child Mimi, where balance and good health were cultivated on every level. It was in moments of solitude in nature that Mimi noticed she could easily “see faces in the clouds.” This particular kind of imaginative process – pareidolia – became her favourite way of coming up with new images. Starting a piece without an idea of what she is going to pain suits her background as an improviser in Theatre, and the improvisational quality of music composing as well.

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Image courtesy of Mimi Seton

LC – Which subject are you working on?
MS – As a polymath, Mimi works in several art forms. After an accident that left her with a hearing condition that makes it impossible for her to work as a composer, she transferred her passionate curiosity about music to visual art. Within each form, she makes pieces in a multitude of styles. Some address social justice issues and may have a linear story or theme. Others are humorous or satirical drawings, fantasies, or pure abstracts that celebrate Beauty for its own sake through the medium of color primarily, and sacred geometry secondarily.

Currently, she is working on 5 ideas:
Firstly: A series of painted and drawn portraits of the Hindu God, Lord Shiva, and his consort, Parvati. Shiva is an important representation of the part of the cycle of life that we call Destruction and Rebirth. To honor Him is to recognize the necessity of dissolution and death, however devastating they feel; they are the required prelude to rebirth. This seems particularly cogent in the historical moment we’re living through now as a species, where our fundamental social structures are falling apart, and where some human beings’ predatory quest for profit has led to the radical imbalance of earth herself and the extreme weather conditions that are a symptom of that imbalance. The old way of thinking that led us to this astonishing crisis is what now needs to die. The process of that unravelling is what we are going through now and it is not an easy transition. 
Secondly: A series of caricatures, mostly drawn in pen and ink, that comment on the mental illness, Body Dysmorphia, which Mimi believes has been widely caused and spread by Technology. This illness is particularly virulent among women and girls. Mimi gives these drawings satirical captions so many are humorous. This project has led some viewers to call her a “feminist social commentator”.
Thirdly: A collection of elaborate textile designs created digitally from photos of plants. She calls these images: Floral Architecture. Perhaps genetically influenced by her Indian great-grandfather, she is drawn to deeply saturated colors for these pieces.
Fourthly: A collection of ABSTRACT paintings called, “Pure Color Dialogues”. For these, Mimi limits her painter’s palate to two or three colors and two basic shapes. A yellow cube may be coupled with a purple pyramid, for example. These simple forms, collaged and arranged on the page in various ways, can become characters in a story. A little ball of green, for example, has taken on the life of a renegade 8-year-old boy; the red rectangle he is paired with has become a picture of the various authorities who want to force him to conform to social norms. Again, some of the humour is in the captions. Pure Color Dialogues also includes more sophisticated abstract paintings that explore the endless musical possibilities of how colors “sing together”.

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Image courtesy of Mimi Seton

LC – How is your creative process?
MS – Mimi has been a practising meditator for decades and enters into a light trance when she is making art, slowing her brainwaves down to “the alpha brain state”, and then going with whatever intuitions show up, without questioning them intellectually. This is something many artists do, though they may not be conscious of it: they slow down into the “alpha brain state” — the same state we were in virtually all the time when we are very young children. It turns out the brain that is cycling slower than in “normal” waking states is a more creative brain with greater access to non-linear ideas and out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Deep relaxation is a direct road to intuition and to creativity. Although Mimi enjoys working from this brain state that we all experience between sleep and waking, she also has a lifetime of artistic decision-making behind her which governs the choices made in every process. She did not go to art school and feels she has an endless amount of knowledge to glean but is carrying her years as a composer and theatre-maker into her adventure with visual art.

LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
MS – Mimi has addressed the vicissitudes of women and girls in a number of pieces over the course of her life, from plays and stories to poems and paintings. She hopes to help resurrect an appreciation for “the Divine Feminine” and more respect for girls and women.

LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
MS – Being an artist is a joy and an honor, no matter what Time period we live in, simply because we are going with the natural flow of Life. Life itself is the greatest artist of all. Art is healing for artists, viewers and communities. Art Saves Lives. Although Mimi has not studied Art theory or Art history, she would guess that the element of modern life that has transformed Art the most is the internet, and the use of art apps on pcs.On the positive side, the Internet gives us access to literally billions of images to contemplate, as well as art courses, teachers, gallery and museum tours, art workshops, art contests, prospecting and marketing opportunities, etc. This is a richness that simply didn’t exist before. That said, because artists (or people calling themselves “artists”) can now market themselves online and build huge audiences, the Art market is glutted as never before. In truth – and let me shift to the first person here — I was always impressed by the “bullshit factor” in the Visual Art world! It seemed much more fady and fickle than the world of contemporary Music. There was much more money to be made and more pretenders. The Art World seems to be one where people no longer have common values – if they ever did. There seems to be a widespread tendency toward ego inflation, whether among critics or the artists themselves. Surely there is a more narcissistic personality disorder in the world than ever before and the Art world can seem very pretentious to me at times. In short: I think the Net is doing Bad and Good at the same time. On the one hand, we have access to huge audiences if we learn to work the social media platforms or have a gift for marketing; and on the other, the art market is glutted with completely derivative images which are not intentionally commenting on the simulacrum. I don’t really know what “Art” is, if I am impeccably honest. The dictionary defines it: as “The expression of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Obviously, there is a lot of art that does none of these things. And perhaps there never were what I refer to as common standards. In music, there are mathematical principles that can’t be broken without a conceptual reason to do so and which everyone agrees spoil the “art”. Playing accurate pitches is one such mathematically defined principle. An A is 440 vibrations, not 360. Either you can play it damn close to 440 or you can’t. You have the skill or you don’t. If you don’t, the music will probably sound “off” or even “hideous”. There is general agreement on this. Yet, with painting, you can use colors from virtually anywhere on the color wheel mixed with others in any way you wish, and they could pass for legitimate entries on your canvas. Your choice of color, regardless of whether most people find it “beautiful” or not, or even beautiful in the sense of “deliberately ugly” will not necessarily eliminate you from professional life as a painter. Perhaps the artistic value of an objet d’art was always determined by a matter of opinion. The king’s opinion. The head of the Museum’s opinion. The head of the university Art Department’s opinion. The gallerist’s opinion. In our times, many people say that “Everything’s been done.” Light and color the primary element of painting and drawing have been addressed in all possible ways already, they say. But these people forget that new ways to make art will emerge with every stage of technological development. One last thing that seems of real note in our Day: the stranglehold European (white) males had on Art is finally loosening so we can experience an art world that more truly represents the diversity of the human community. People whose ancestors were ignored for centuries can now be seen. The wealth of images arising from this reality is astonishing. There are thousands of women artists, for example, who were effaced by the Patriarchy, but kept creating anyway and some of their work is every bit as powerful and beautiful as the work of the most famous men. At the same time, I see many objects people call “Art” which I personally find the derivative, shallow, and poorly executed. One problem is that everyone has the ability to broadcast her opinion widely, but not all opinions are equally insightful. Many people defend their opinions these days as fiercely as they might defend their children. In short: we have become overly identified with our opinions and this can make people very nasty. Anyone who has a few years behind him has noticed that the world is less civil than it was, say, 30 years ago and online this translates as cyber-shaming. Cyber-bullying. Cyber-slander. Cyber-theft. And even cyber-murder. Anyone can say pretty much anything she wants online to strangers including a pack of lies. There is a hideous amount of trolling and cyber-stalking. An artist must develop a very thick skin when it comes to fielding the opinions of others. We must choose judiciously WHO we listen to, because being stupid, unevolved, or even psychotic and murderous, doesn’t prevent someone from spreading his opinions to millions of viewers online – and worse: attracting thousands of followers who agree with his nonsense!

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Image courtesy of Mimi Seton

LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the exhibition or as a part of preexisting works?
MS – I made two slideshows for the exhibitions in London, Rome and Venice: one with caricatures and paintings on the subject of Body Dysmorphia and one with paintings illustrating the retelling of a Creation Myth popular among native American peoples. The music was composed by me for the creation myth piece and by the percussionist M.B. Gordy, percussionist for the Grammy-Award-winning OPIUM MOON, for the Body Dysmorphia piece. Both slideshows express my dedication to the Divine Feminine principle and to women.

LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the exhibition? What do you think about the organization of our event?
MS – All I know of ITSLIQUID is from my correspondence with Giulia Tassi and what I have read on the Net. Both of these experiences have been very positive. I did stumble on some bad reviews online and Giulia answered my concern without defensiveness – and very intelligently. That REALLY meant a lot to me and attracted me even more to the organization. I am excited about working with you again in future. Your website looks great, the venues look great and I believe you are supporting artists with sensitivity and appreciation. The theme The Body in Space is a very juicy one. My only regret about this entire experience is that I am unable to go see what people came up with in response to this theme. I can certainly imagine doing a collaboration with you on this or your next choice of theme, using my knowledge and passion for Theatre and vocal work, to create a performance piece for ItsLiquid. Or I would be happy to be part of next year’s art fairs.

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Image courtesy of Mimi Seton
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Image courtesy of Mimi Seton

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