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Six of the Best, Part 26

Part 26 of an interview series in which I pose the same six questions to artists of all types, to find out their individual mechanisms of creativity (previous interviews: 123456789101112, 13, 1415161718192021222324, 25). This interview is with Seth Friedman, a sculptor living in the Pacific northwestern United States. I first encountered him via Twitter, a sort of throw-away social medium that led me in fact to a website full of work that combines hefty materials like stone with real wit.

"I Like Arabia and Arabia Likes Me," 2011, Persian travertine, 14" x 22" x 17"

PH: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why? 
SF: I feel like Richard Simmons’ to rocks: pretty much any kind will do. My special affection is saved for marble (Italian Carrara/Iranian red Travertine, if possible) and granite found in rivers, people’s side yards close-to-the-street, and highway rest stops. I occasionally cast the carved forms in brass or bronze to explore the potentials of hollowness and/or raccoon-envy (shininess). There is nothing I’d rather be doing than carving. That said, I have almost no access to where the forms come from, a consideration that leaves me constantly stupefied, grateful, and desirous for more.

PH:What piece are you currently working on?

SF: I just started on an 800lb block of Yule marble (used for the Lincoln Memorial). I am somewhere between easy joy (in hammer swinging I could be mistaken for a smaller, scrawnier, Jewish John Henry) and freakish doubt (at whether it will go anywhere). It is the same story every time.

"Hi Shit Her," 2012, Calcite, 9" x 12" 5"

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

SF: I have been carving white marble for the last two years. I hate white marble now. This has led me to think a lot about how to deface, or leave defaced (usually the stone has writing/surface markings on it from the quarry/transport) the end-result. 

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

SF: I guess I should confess to being a book polygamist (right now: Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island; Sue Coe, Malcolm X; Mark Strand, Reasons for Moving; Henry Miller, Selected Essays; and J.Crew (only partially kidding)). Dissecting how I read, and trying out new word forms and letter spacing to violate the process, fills many of my quiet moments.

"Oh Charlie Brown Charlie," 2013, Carrara, 10" x 28" x 16"

PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making? 

SF: Until I was 38, I never tried making anything that might be called art.  In 2008, thanks to severe malaise and my wife's constant prodding, I carved a rock from our backyard. I am still amazed that (a) the result did not suck, and (b) the waking door to my recurring dream (a house under the house under a house) was accessible. Since then my family/dear neighbors have tolerated the noise, debris, occasional cursing, and my confusion/elation. Blessings.  

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

SF: When I was a little kid, I sat in the classroom and heard adults talk about their jobs/life. I thought that being a fireman/policeman/doctor/adult would feel like I imagined it, embodied. Then I got to adulthood and wondered where the magic went. I found it again in making art. 

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.


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