From The Archive: Artist as Art


This was originally posted by Monica in 2007. It is a look into artists who use their bodies as art. What is their motivation? How do these artists influence ideas of acceptability, normality, and beauty?

I’ve really enjoyed some documentaries, articles, and books over the past few years on single artists who use their bodies as art and what it means to them and the viewer. I’m speaking of examples such as Leigh Bowery, Peter Berlin, the recent tragic passing of Isabella Blow (who I would love to document the life of).

Of course there are some recurring themes about challenging norms, we’re all walking statements, outsider status, and things like that. But what I really like about these pieces is how each one is so personal, so different in the details, even if the generalities and motivations are close to the same. The way that each one of those people mentioned, and the many more like them (or not like them to be more to the point), chooses to use apparel and their bodies as art so purposefully is really inspiring and intriguing. Many of them take all the same catalysts that lead people to group participation in subcultures (which is typically what I study) and instead they become singular figures who often end up leading a group or standing out on their own with pride and sometimes anxiety.

In this month’s MPLS/St. Paul Magazine there’s an interesting piece on local artist Scott Seekins who has worn the same two outfits since the late 60s/early 70s. Black suit in the cold, white suit in the warm months. He’s got 8 of each and that’s it, day in, day out. Then he spends his days walking through popular areas of the city on display. Yes he is a painter and photographer too, but based on my interests it is the way he looks and what he does with it that grabs me. I saw him at a craft fair and he really does catch your eye, but I didn’t think much about it. But reading this article does validate that he has put some thought into what he’s doing, made a lifetime commitment, and while I just saw him in passing I can remember few people from the crowded room and he has stuck in my memory in detail.

As much as I’m facinated and particpate in group identities and known subcultures, I have to admit that it is these people who often to the most effective job of shocking, engaging, conflicting, and motivated people to really think about their ideas of acceptability, normality, and beauty.

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1 Comment

  • Judi Petkau June 25, 2007 04.17 pm

    Great blog Monica! Scottt reminds me of another performance artist I used to see around. When I lived in Texas, Linda Montano taught there and she would wear only one color for year (linked to the different chakras) eventually cycling twice, committed to this for 14 years.


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