Maureen Seel is a Brooklyn-based indie artist and author. Art has been part of their life since childhood. They grew up drawing for fun, took classes in high school, and kept up with it as a hobby outside of their career as a diabetes educator. The difficulties of being in quarantine and working in healthcare during COVID served as a springboard into a whole new life, where art would finally take front and center. Maureen primarily works with oil on canvas; however, many of their pieces are multimedia, incorporating items such as antiques, reclaimed jewelry, and even nature. Maureen’s passion is using art to process and convey emotion. As a survivor of trauma, they hope to use their work to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
What inspired you to start creating, and how has your background shaped your artistic perspective?
Maureen: Art has been part of my life in some capacity for as long as I can remember. However, I decided to pursue art as a career last Summer when we moved to Brooklyn. It coincided with a time in my life when I needed an outlet to help me process emotions and some negative experiences from my early life. I found it therapeutic and helpful for expressing and exploring feelings and events that were difficult to put into words.
I'm Not Bad
What do you aim to express with your work?
Maureen: Art has been an invaluable tool for me when dealing with anger and sadness resulting from complex PTSD. I am a survivor of child abuse, and I feel like more attention is being paid to mental and emotional health than ever before. One theme woven into many of my favorite pieces is the idea of life and death and how there can be beauty in pain. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of using gold to repair broken pottery and other things. The idea is that not only is the item stronger where it was broken (the metal is stronger than clay), but it is more beautiful because it was broken. Survivors of abuse and trauma are the same; We just have to learn to see it in ourselves. We’re all stronger than we realize. (Artwork: Kintsugi)
What unexpected things have inspired you lately?
Maureen: We were recently in Old Vegas for a friend’s wedding and spent lots of time exploring the area. There was an old motel that had been turned into a shop for local artisans, and the bathroom had been decorated in all its gaudy and authentic 1950s-60s glory, complete with a gold goose faucet. The area was also great for local street art and graffiti; Art is everywhere if you change how you look at things.
What are you working on now?
Maureen: Currently, I'm working on the largest piece I have ever attempted. It's an ode to Edgar Allen Poe entitled Life in Death, Beauty in Pain. EAP's work and style always inspired me because he never shied away from talking about difficult things. My favorite poem of his is Annabel Lee, which discusses a person losing the love of their life. Life in Death, Beauty in Pain is comprised of several oil paintings, various reclaimed jewelry pieces, and gnarled branches I found that fit the theme.
Left: Annabel Lee RIP | Middle: Persephone Heart | Right: Quoth the Raven
Left: By The Sea | Right: Edgar Portrait
What's your dream art project? Is it collaborative?
Maureen: I’d love to do a multimedia mural or street art one day. I could incorporate all kinds of things into my work. I love the idea of doing something that included light installations, reclaimed scrap, and cool things I find in the city or in nature. Or maybe a pop-up group art therapy exercise. Pull people in from off the street and let them use art to express an emotion. Art is a way to say things that sometimes can’t be said out loud.
What is your favorite work of art? Why?
Maureen: I love Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh because it's beautiful in its simplicity. The lines aren't perfectly straight, and there's nothing glamorous about it. It has a simple, beautiful, and imperfect nature. Van Gogh also struggled with mental health, which comes through in his work.
What's the best part about being an artist in Brooklyn, NY?
Maureen: It feels like everywhere I go in Brooklyn, art is living, breathing, and part of what makes Brooklyn, Brooklyn. I love the contrast between the dark and light—of city and nature. You could be walking by a chain link fence, but there are vines with flowers growing on them.
Where is your favorite place to go in your city for inspiration?
Maureen: Prospect Park, which I’m sure inspires a lot of artists, but also a couple of my favorite local coffee spots like ArtShack and Crown Heights Cafe showcase artwork from local artisans, and it’s always fun to see new things show up when I visit. It might sound odd, but I sometimes get inspired on the subway platform too.
What do you think the Brooklyn art scene needs?
Maureen: I wish there were more opportunities for new and emerging artists to get their stuff out there and for others to see things like this. I think the use of art for therapy and dealing with emotions is such a valuable tool, and I’d love to see more of that embraced in the community.
How did you hear about Artist & Craftsman Supply?
Maureen: I was looking for a place that had good deals on my favorite oil painting supplies. Most big chain craft stores have a good selection but often feel cold and sterile, not homey. My local A&C Supply isn’t far from my neighborhood, and the bus I take also takes me by a few antique places where I like to look for interesting pieces to add to my work. I did a lot of manga and sketching in college and always have at least two or three sketchbooks I’m working in. The sketchbook section took my breath away with so many choices! Plus, I get to take the awesome rainbow staircase to get there!
Do you have a go-to brand or product?
Maureen: Winsor & Newton Oil Paint because it’s a great quality for the price. Oil painting and the other supplies for it can get very expensive. This has been my go-to lately. A&C also has a great selection of canvases.
What advice do you have for artists just beginning a new career?
Maureen: Sometimes person that needs to believe in you the most is yourself. Validation and recognition from others is important, but it’s even more important to recognize the steps you take to improve yourself and your work. Be your own cheerleader. In the art world, there will be a lot of rejection. Believe in yourself-especially when it feels like others don’t. (Artwork: Frida)
If you listen to anything while you work, please recommend something for us to check out!
Maureen: I love to create my own playlists on Spotify, but I also listen to Podcasts. Serial is one of my favorites, though I also enjoy Dirty John and Doctor Death. Lately I’ve been into classical and other instrumental music. One of my all-time favorite composers/pianists, George Winston, passed away recently. I could listen to his album December year round, but his album Forest is also great for getting the creative juices going.
Where can the #ACScommunity see more of your work?
Maureen: You can see my portfolio as well as read my blog and look into upcoming art and writing projects on my website: MaureenSeelWrites.com (Artwork: Marylin)
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