Blog / 2021 / Art as Trust Exercise

April 26, 2021

[video transcript]

Between the two that ghosted me in 2016 and 2017 and the one that played a part in censoring me in 2019, I’ve had a bad run with public libraries since moving to Jersey. Fingers crossed that Princeton breaks the curse and restores my faith in an institution that I love so dearly.

Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon
Princeton, NJ 08542

Open: June 1st through August 31st
Hours: open most days, check PPL site for specifics
Pride Artist Talk: online June 23rd at 7p EDT
Artist Talk with Mic Boekelmann: online July 20th at 7:30p EDT

The alphabet book is available here and you can get a peek at some of what will be on display here!

Y is for yabby and L is for lobster, wildlife alphabet art
Gwenn Seemel
Y Is for Yabby and L Is for Lobster
acrylic on panel
14 x 28 inches (combined dimensions)

The original yabby painting as well as the orignal lobster one are for sale for $1500 each—see all currently available artworks. If you want prints or t-shirts with the yabby, go here; for lobster items, go here.

blue crawfish wildlife art
detail of Y Is for Yabby

Y is for yabby. Also known as the cherax destructor, the Australian crayfish comes in a range of colors depending on water clarity, with the bright blue being just one variant

lobster wildlife painting by Gwenn Seemel
detail of L Is for Lobster

L is for lobster and, more specifically, the American lobster. These days, most of us only ever encounter these animals in the context of luxury food, but the American lobster used to be much more plentiful, with piles of them washing ashore at a time. It’s fun to imagine a world in which modern-day beach goers must coexist with once-upon-a-time lobster populations.

Baby Sees ABCs, word search and baby name book by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel’s Baby Sees ABCs

It takes a certain amount of confidence to relinquish any creative control over your art to someone else, and I don’t have have it—at least not with everybody. With my community, yes. I trust them.

Case in point: these two paintings. One of a yabby, which is a kind of crawfish, and the other of a lobster. They’re both part of Baby Sees ABCs, the animal alphabet book I created in collaboration with my audience. Each of the 26 animals portrayed in Baby Sees ABCs were chosen by my community, and then it was up to me to make the whole thing work together as a book.

When I first realized that’d mean I’d be painting both a crawfish and a lobster, I was a bit disappointed by how similar these animals are. But the truth is that my audience served me well with the 24 other species, picking a variety of land animals, sea species, and even some birds. They ran the gamut from obscure fauna to back yard favorites. So if they’d done such a good job with the rest of the book, I reasoned that a yabby and a lobster might be just what Baby Sees ABCs needed.

And they were! The same-same of these two crustaceans is an important lesson for kids learning about the natural world and about all the ways it interconnects. Plus these underwater arthropods are actually quite different, and those differences only come into sharp relief when you put them next to each other.

Baby Sees ABCs was a trust exercise with the people who love my art, but it was also an exercise in learning to trust myself again. In other words, it was exactly the sort of project I needed in 2019, in the months after my art was censored from a show at a public library, when that betrayal left me feeling powerless and wary.

Fast forward two years and I’m showing Baby Sees ABCs at another public library, the one in Princeton, for the whole summer! This is actually freaking me out a bit. I mean, of course I’m excited, and I really like my contact at the library, but I still worry about how things will play out, considering the trauma from the last time my art went up in a library.

This show feels right, necessary, like the final step in my healing process. If I want to move on once and for all from the censorship, I need to be able to trust that a public library can be a part of my community.

If you’re in the Princeton area and you want to catch the show this summer, it opens June 1st! And if you’re not in the area but you still want to be involved, I’m doing a couple events online with the library this summer. So if you want to be notified of when those are happening, just sign up for my mailing list.

This video is made with love and microdonations from my community!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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