Sean Alexander isn’t an artist as much as a movement. Over the years, while teamed up with fellow Tacoman Peter Lynn he co-founded and curated the late, groundbreaking gallery, the Helm. The two also produced the first Squeak and Squawk indie music festival, in 2008; it’s still going strong six years later under the direction of Adam McKinney and Jena Stedtler. And he makes visual art that bedazzles.
Get yourself downtown for Sean’s opening at M+M on February 20, 4-8pm. This artist and illustrator is known for his ultra-pure folkloric/contemporary ink drawings, with exquisite line work that looks as if it was rendered with the one and only hair stolen from a hairless Abyssinian cat. But fans will be thrilled to learn that at this show, Sean is breaking out in new directions with digital 2-D art and oil paintings. Plus, first-time-ever handmade furniture inspired by mid-century modern design jacked up with his own unique sense of style.
We recently checked in with Tacoma’s squeakiest, squawkiest artist to see what’s on the burner.
Moss + Mineral: Hi Sean. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Sean Alexander: A glass of water and some GT’s Trilogy Kombucha.
MM: Where do you work?
SA: I am self-employed as a freelance graphic designer. I work out of my studio.
MM: What is the distance from your kitchen to your workspace?
SA: Half a block.
MM: You are well known for your visual art, particularly the incredibly intricate line drawings. What kind of pen and ink do you use for those drawings?
SA: Micron pens and an assortment of different markers and pencils.
MM: You’ll be introducing your original furniture designs at Moss + Mineral. How did you become interested in furniture?
SA: I had a brief spell where I was living in Brooklyn. While there, I worked at a store that specialized in mid-century modern and primitive furniture. One of the main duties of the job was to research the furniture and I became more interested while doing that research. We would repair broken or damaged furniture that came into the shop as well, so some light finishing skills were picked up during that time.
MM: What would you say is the newest or most underutilized material in furniture making?
SA: I don’t know. I think that there are a lot of tacky trends going on with furniture right now. The idea that you can take any piece of reclaimed wood and slap some hairpin legs on it and call it a table is kind of ridiculous. Everything seems to be focused on speed and cost effectiveness instead of quality and vision right now. It doesn’t really pay to be a maker of good things, so there aren’t very many people making them. Back to the question, I think the most underutilized material is care. If you can materialize such a thing?
MM: At the other extreme, pieces that are so conceptual and overdesigned that you can’t use them are annoying. Dumb. Solidity is good. What is your fantasy piece of furniture (self-made or by others)?
SA: I don’t know. A good cabinet. I don’t have the skill it takes to make a good cabinet but hopefully someday. I am trying to make a mini cabinet for this show but it is looking a little rough since I am broke and using found wood.
MM: Necessity is a mother. So, you have a day job…
SA: I am doing graphic design and layout work. I’m hoping to get some products done in the next year. As I mentioned, it doesn’t really pay to be a maker, so there is always that to wrestle with.
MM: A neighbor’s storefront deals in (and sells) hair-raisingly expensive mid-century furniture pieces, and you recently refinished a table for her. There are a lot of people eager to see what your furniture will be like.What is your idea of the perfect table?
SA: A small one with lots of people around it. Like [Van Gogh’s painting] “The Potato Eaters”.
MM: What is the most interesting dream you’ve had lately?
SA: Dreams are strange. I don’t put too much stock in them.
MM: No forebodings, laughs or eureka moments?
SA: Not really. Just guilt and people I haven’t talked to for a while.
MM: What is the best thing about making art?
SA: The lessons it teaches you.
MM: And the worst?
SA: The lessons it teaches you.
MM: What are you doing on Sunday?
SA: Watching [the Superbowl] and eating.
MM: Is there anything that terrifies you on a regular basis?
SA: Ending up a complete failure and losing all my teeth.
MM: Omigosh, at your last show you had a rotted tooth that the dentist had pulled! But you still seem in fine fettle.
SA: I think we’re all failing miserably at something and I’d rather it be my teeth than my soul. I just remind myself that I gotta keep cranking and trying to be a better person.
MM: And keep brushing. Thank you, Sean.
Also on February 20, 4-8pm – Introducing the debut collection of accessories by designer and style expert Virginia Bunker, a woman who knows her Galliano from her Ghesquiere. Come down to Moss + Mineral and meet the artist! ~ Lisa Kinoshita