The juxtaposition, in April Seelbach’s art, of ultra-realistic American landscapes against bright pop-art colors, stars, stripes and flowers, seems to suggest a metaphor for the ideological gaps in today’s society – life as it is, as opposed to life as it could be.
Then again, maybe not.
“I don’t think I’m trying to convey a specific message,” says Seelbach, whose retro-painted photographs go on exhibit Friday (April 12) at Mize Gallery. “My work is just a marriage of two interests in my life. I love photographing and enjoying time outdoors, and I also love ‘60s culture and style. It’s as simple as that.”
The St. Pete native has been painting since she was 13. “This is the first time in my life that I’m creating pieces I like and other people happen to like it too,” she says. “It feels fantastic.”
The large images – professionally printed on wood canvases – are hand-painted; the smaller ones are digital, Photoshop creations. Each starts with one of the artist’s own photographs.
“Up until 2013 I was doing oil paintings of people’s pets, and I actually still get asked to do them today,” Seelbach confesses. “It’s been years since I’ve have tried that, and I don’t know if I will ever go back. Sometimes I feel like I am using less of my artistic ‘skill’ now, but I’m actually way more pleased with my work than ever before.”
The Mize exhibition, featuring the 29-year-old artist’s larger, hand-painted work, is called Roadside Attractions.
“I was traveling all over the country in my camper and accumulated hundreds of images,” Seelback says. “My fiance taught me how to use those photos and make gel medium transfers onto little wood blocks, so I was doing that and selling them at the Indie Market.
“Then I discovered a few artists, Dana Trippe and Jenny Sharaf, that were adding paint to photographs and I started messing around. I was getting somewhat bored with just the landscapes anyway.
“I made a few small prints with painted designs right on them, and people really took to them. I kept with it, learned Photoshop and would create designs and then make prints of those. It’s really just a lot of trial and error, playing around with different pictures and different patterns.”
Roadside Attractions is the first solo show – featuring the work of a single artist – at Mize, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. Previously, gallery owner (and fellow artist) Chad Mize has only featured group shows.
“I’m drawn to the vibe she sets with her work,” Mize enthuses. “I love that ‘60s, ‘70s vibe. And I love that psychedelic vibe as well. I just feel the energy from the pieces, and I’m really drawn to the color palette.”
As for the future, Seelbach isn’t looking too far down the next highway. “All I really hope is to continue to do what I love and share it with others,” she says. “If I could make a comfortable living doing so, well, that would be even better.”
Roadside Attractions opens with a 6-10 p.m. reception Friday, April 12. Mize Gallery is at 689 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. North, Unit C.
Next: Files & Film, a juried photography show, opens May 4 at Mize. And on June 15, the gallery premieres ICONS: LGBTQ+ Portraits. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, 50 area artists will each create a portrait of an iconic LGBTQ+ figure in history.