The Art of Solitude
Writer Amanda Christmann
Photographer Scott Baxter
Seth Fairweather is comfortable in silence. Slow with a smile, he is frugal with his words, relinquishing them quietly and without hyperbole. His black shirt and faded black jeans underscore his reticence, and a brow deep in thought hoods his blue eyes.
It’s not that Fairweather is averse to communicating; it’s just that words are not his medium.
Fairweather’s thoughts emerge from inside a crucible, through the flicker of flames, with constant motion and careful shaping. Each resulting statement is a treatise. Even in art, Fairweather spares little energy for small talk.
Above all, however, his expressions are uniquely his own, and ultimately that’s the crux of his message, conveyed effectively in glass and metal. His sculptures feel industrial, yet somehow organic. Most depict the struggle of human immergence—or emergence—with human-like figures climbing up from or into mire, symbolic of our own inundation of information and voices.
Fairweather’s work is deep, but it is a depth worth exploring.
“We are disconnecting from the individual voice,” he explains. “Now more than any other time in history, technology and the nature of the internet have created a world in which individual opinions don’t really exist. We are so influenced by social media and what everything else is thinking. My work is based on the individual voice—who we are, and who we can be as our own people.”
Like many people, I struggle to digest this concept. After all, my own life is steeped in connection. Discovering commonalities and building relationships is innate to many of us. Yet his logic is not lost upon me, or on Fairweather’s art collectors.
“The biggest problem is that we’ve forgotten how to think,” he continues. “There’s almost a helplessness that comes along with having so much information available. We’re constantly looking to others to tell us how to think, predigested in a certain wrapper.
“I want people to think. I want them to take time to sit with it. That’s not saying that they should abstain from research, but that they should form their own thoughts outside of the hive mentality.”
Several pieces from his “Ascetic” series and more are on display at Grace Renee Gallery in Carefree. Each one is a combination of steel and glass. Solitary, egoless bodies carefully honed by fire rise up. Though open to interpretation, it is not difficult to speculate on intended messages.
An Unlikely Path
Fairweather has made a steady career of his art, but his beginnings are far from traditional for an artist. In fact, he had little interest in creative expression as a child, and went to Tulane University with plans to become a surgeon or a veterinarian. An elective glass-blowing class forever changed his path.
“That was it for me,” he says. “I transferred back to New York to Alfred University, where I graduated with honors and a BFA in sculpture and three-dimensional studies.”
He loved the physicality; the heat and the risk. He embraced the idea that, at any time, a piece could submit to the flames or crack and be lost. But mostly, he loved that, when it all came together, he could create something uniquely his own—and he was very, very good at it.
He obtained his master’s of fine arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, and has served as artist in residence in Arizona and Florida.
Fairweather’s love remains in creating his own work, infusing each piece with both obvious and obscured messages.
“The trickiest part is that glass is that it is so technically difficult to get it to do what you want it to do, that people stop pushing,” he explains. “They get to the point where it’s ‘okay’ and they stop. It’s just hard to get past the ‘it’s okay’ point.”
But get past it, he has.
From the tubular “Horizons” series that combines elements of nature with industrial chic style, to mystic glass discs, to his “Passion” series that incorporates circular bases with individual personified figures, Fairweather’s work is not only unique, it has an element of innovative genius often lacking in the realm of glass art.
True to his style and message, he is impervious to outside opinion.
“My work deals with solitude,” he says. “My interest and focus is on the individual, without the definitions supplied, implied or described by surroundings or society,” he says.
“My interest is in creating an object that houses within it a space for the viewer to explore, to lose him or herself and disconnect from their surrounds.”
The Art of Seth Fairweather
Grace Renee Gallery
7212 E. Ho Hum Rd., Carefree