In one of the more unique art events in recent years, painter Sally Mayer Seidl will be conducting an artist talk about her exhibition "Tell Me Who You Are Haunting, and I’ll Tell You Who You Are" at Bonaventure Cemetery on Friday.
The evocative title, a French proverb alluding to a quote by surrealist writer André Breton from his novel Nadja, gives the first clue that the unusual venue is perhaps the perfect place for the philosophic creator to speak about the show.
"It’s a romantic story about this reoccurring, obsessive presence of this women Nadja in the author’s life," Seidl explained. "And it’s basically him questioning their reality or their lack of their reality. It evokes everything that I’m interested in: The element of haunting; non-linear time or time out of joint. It’s also a phrase that makes you think. It poses a question rather than really answers one."
The artist’s conceptually heady work is inspired by other historically significant thinkers as well, from existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger, to Irish horror writer Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, to theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. The phrase "time is out of joint" comes from Shakespeare’s "Hamlet."
"I was fascinated by some of this obviously macabre stuff," Seidl said of her influences. "The idea of peeling back the veil and looking beyond our world. And that lead me to the idea of non-linear time. And then I got into the scientific aspect of that."
Visually, the paintings relate synergistically to the themes that drive the artist’s work. Figures appear to emerge from or fade into the background, a result of Seidl’s technique.
"The desire to be haunted is born out of love," she related, "so sometimes when I’m doing these works, it’s a way of bringing things back to you, or reliving something, or immortalizing it. So I try to bring that into the process too. I’ll do multiple layers, multiple layers of gesso, and then I’ll go back in with a power sander and just bring the past through so they’re all kind of coexisting on the same plane."
This perfect blending of technique and concept are particularly evident in "Ghost Story" and in the works in the "Nocturne of Remembered Spring" series.
The exhibition itself is hanging in SCAD’s Alexander Hall, but due to restrictions caused by COVID-19, would-be viewers aren’t permitted to visit the gallery. The artist has, however, created a virtual walkthrough in conjunction with the opening reception that took place on October 9th, with a more polished video presentation of the show set to be released sometime in November.
In the meantime, visitors can get a close-up view of many of her melancholy pieces on her website www.sallymayerseidl.com.
"It’s sad, but it’s poetically sad," said Seidl of her work. "It’s the thing that makes our lives so valuable is the fact that we are these transient beings. We’re only given a little bit of time. We don’t know how much time we have. There’s a poetic tragedy in the human condition. It’s about relishing those beautiful moments as they do dissipate."
"[I’m] just trying to catch something before it disappears, something beautiful and always changing, and set it stationary and immortalize it in a piece of art."
Sally Mayer Seidl is represented locally by Tiffani Taylor Gallery. Those interested in catching her artist talk from Bonaventure Cemetery can do so on Instagram @SallyMayerSeidl and on Facebook at Sally Mayer Seidl Fine Art. Purchase inquiries for the exhibition "Tell Me Who You Are Haunting, and I’ll Tell You Who You Are" are being handled by SCAD Art Sales at www.scadartsales.com.
Next week I’ll be speaking with painter Jenny Eitel about her larger than life pop art.
Tune in to "Art on the Air" every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at www.wruu.org.
Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on dosavannah.com as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show "Art on the Air."
Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.