Today I would like to talk about Seth Cameron, a contemporary artist who recently had his first solo exhibition in Miami. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and besides being an artist, he is also a writer and educator. When I first read what his art was about, I didn’t know what to expect: “It began one Thanksgiving with Cameron tracing his hand to draw a turkey. Left-handed, he traced his right hand. That the drawing could be made by two hands at once, that the image could be two things at once, that the emergent turkey remained a remnant of his own body, that this present absence of the ready-to-hand gesture both implicated the ostensible subject and was implicated by it (in that the turkey is death).”
It didn’t get better when I continued reading that he is tracing his thumbs, exploring the rule of the thumb and combining the thumb with metaphors like mouse holes, eye holes, caves, tombstones, ghosts, lovers atop hills looking out to endless view. But I was still curious about Seth Cameron and his first solo exhibition here in Miami, so I went to the opening and to an interview with the artist. The exhibition, titled Measure for Measure, is the named after one of Shakespeare’s problem plays; a discerning dissembling of the rightness of ruses, neither a comedy or a tragedy.
When I saw his artworks I was truly impressed by the variety of his themes, colors and creativity. Seth Cameron paints very neatly and diversified. His artworks weren’t presented hanging on the wall, they were shown leaning on a ledge with different spaces in between, some were closer together and other ones had their own space. They all have titles but they weren’t shown in the exhibition, neither was any explanation. At the entrance I found later a catalog where the artworks and titles where shown. So you can find Academics in the Woods, Suns, Ghost Story, Private Conversation or Orchestra and Scene in the exhibition.
At first that seemed to be confusing, but I think that it allows you to form your own opinion about the artworks. It leaves the question “What am I looking at?” completely up to you. Not only that, it leaves room open for conversations and challenging you to “interact” with the painting. If you compare that with other exhibitions, you can see how different such an experience is where you find information (artist, title, materials) right next to the artwork at the wall. In Measure for Measure you can make up your opinion, thinking about what you can see in the painting and also experience which artwork “speaks” to you and why. And that is what contemporary is all about, it needs people to talk about it and tries to challenge you to get out of the role from a passive viewer to take an active role in the art scene.
What I experienced in this exhibitions reflects exactly the discussion of what contemporary art is about. Many people have trouble with opening their mind, experiencing art and being challenged. Many want information easily presented on a plate but openness, dialogue and curiosity are the most important tools for engaging with contemporary works of art. Artists explore ideas, concepts, questions and practices of the past with the aim to understand the present and envision the future. Audiences play an active role in the process of interpretation and the meaning of works of art. Some artists even say that the viewer contributes to the artwork by offering his or her personal experiences, opinions and interpretations. Contemporary art requires an open-ended methodology instead of questioning if you think the artwork is good or bad. The first important step is asking questions which initiate a discussion towards interpreting artworks and debates which may provoke strong responses or contradict personal beliefs or social values.