Seth Apter is a mixed-media artist, photographer, and book artist from New York City with a love of paper, bookmaking and bookbinding, textures, layers, text, altered images, visual journaling, abstract art, ephemera, and so much more. We talk about all that stuff in the following interview, plus his Altered Page blog, which is how I came to know Seth in the first place.
ephemera: How did you become interested in mixed media art and the use of ephemera in your work?
Apter: I have been actively involved in the visual arts for about nine years. My initial introduction to the world of mixed media developed after I met an artist in Canada and we began to exchange mail art. Over time, the posts became increasingly complex and were nearly always mixed media in nature. At the same time, I took several courses at the Center for Book Arts in NYC and became fascinated with all forms of bookbinding by hand. The overlapping element in both these experiences was paper. And my obsession with paper fuels my artwork as well. I am constantly on the lookout for materials and never tire from the hunt. Whether it is found paper that I pick up from the street or pull off from a billboard, or sourcing eBay and flea markets for ephemera, I always experience a surge of creative energy when I come upon a new discovery.
ephemera: If you're one of those people who is sourcing from eBay, you might want to check back here from time to time as I've been putting more effort into featuring unique ephemera from that well-known site. What challenges or obstacles do you encounter as a mixed media artist? How do you overcome these challenges?
Apter: Well my initial reaction to this question is to note that working with mixed media actually reduces obstacles for me in that anything and everything can be turned into an art supply. No matter what I am trying to express through an artwork, there is an ingredient out there that I can find to do so. But I suppose there are some challenges in mixed media as well.
Like many mixed media artists, I am a collector. And many of my collections are materials for my artwork. I have drawers and boxes filled with ephemera, handmade paper, rusty metal objects, scraps of material, and the like. Sometimes I find it difficult to actually use many of the bits and pieces I collect and I suppose this can become an obstacle. However, when even a coveted item is perfect for a specific piece of art, I usually know it and am able to "part with it" from my collection and use it in the art.
The other challenge I find is related to other people's understanding of what I create. The question "what kind of art do you make?" to this day remains difficult to answer. When I respond "mixed media" I know I will then be asked "what is that?" For some reason, some people do not understand how using a rusty metal washer and the back of a piece of masking tape can be art. The best way I have found to deal with this challenge is by showing rather than telling. I think in that way, mixed media art speaks for itself!
Apter: My artwork is all about layers and texture. The number one ingredient I use would have to be paper. A close second is acrylic paint, but I think paper is truly the essential ingredient. My artwork is also abstract and utilizes letters, words, numbers, and symbols to tell a story. So, I often use ephemera and other bits and pieces of found and altered paper as a means of expression in my art. Ephemera also plays a role for me in my book arts, often being used in my travel, nature, or daily visual journals.
ephemera: What are some of your favorite things that you've created? Why?
Apter: I would have to say that my favorites fall into two categories. The first one being some of my monochromatic artwork where the feeling of the piece is expressed primarily through words and textures. These are the qualities that seem to resonate most deeply for me. The second category would be my travel journals which I would characterize as "artistic" but are meaningful more because of the personal memories they allow me to relive.
ephemera: Tell me about your blog? What inspires you to blog and how do you see it evolving?
Apter: The Altered Page is just over two years old and has become an integral part of my development as an artist. My blog focuses on four general areas: showing my own artwork, highlighting the work of artists I admire, developing and exhibiting collaborative projects, and sharing my art-related experiences living in New York City. My blog has allowed me to share my art with people who truly "get" mixed media, has introduced me to so many new artists and bloggers, and has given me a platform to create a series of collaborative projects that continue to grow in scope and nature. While I enjoy the solitude that comes with the actual making of art, I also receive endless creative energy from the community that has developed among art bloggers. And because I am driven to keep my blog very active, it also keeps me returning to the studio as I always have something new to post.
ephemera: Thank you, Seth.