Houston Artist, Seth Alverson Opens Up About Twisted Nightmares

Landscape With A Head | © Seth Alverson
Landscape With A Head | © Seth Alverson
Photo of Barbi Barbee
1 December 2016

Meet Seth Alverson, the artist painting the wonderfully twisted images of your nightmares. Alverson is no stranger to Houston. He studied art in the city before landing his pieces in galleries all over Houston — not to mention the rest of the country. Alverson’s paintings are a little grotesque, and the Houston art community loves them. Alverson describes himself as ‘an out-of-shape misanthrope seeking solace from the monotony of life.’ This transfers into his work, in which common scenes, objects, and, yes, body parts are spun into something new. Read on to learn more about life as an artist and art curator, building a mountain, and Alverson’s next project.

Useless Hand | © Seth Alverson

What is the most memorable moment from your career?

This is a tough one since it all sort of blends together. I can’t pick out one memorable moment that is any more important than the rest. A vast majority of my time is spent alone – thinking, drawing, painting. In the rare instance that someone wants to show my work, I usually go to the opening. This part I dread. The only hope I have during these things is maybe having a really great conversation about art with someone who genuinely seems to understand my work. This has happened a few times, and I love when it does. On the flip side, I do remember a story that was told to me during the last show I did. A guy walks into the gallery and the director greets him and asks if he is familiar with my work. The guy said something along the lines of ‘yes, I am familiar with it and I can’t stand it; I just came by today to make sure I still hate it.’ That made me laugh, and I really wish I could have been there for that. I guess I haven’t really set up my career to be very exciting, so lots of memories are fleeting.

What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the art industry?

Oh man, this is like me trying to give medical advice. I dunno, don’t eat your boogers, kids. Really though, I’m not much help here. From what I’ve seen there is no formula… it works (or doesn’t work) differently for everyone. There’s a great quote I read that is attributed to Bukowski. It goes, ‘I got to thinking about solutions in life. People who solved things usually had lots of persistence and some good luck. If you persisted long enough, the good luck usually came. Most people couldn’t wait on luck, though, so they quit.’ What I’ve done is make work, show it to as many people as I can, see what happens… then repeat. I’m waiting on the luck part.

Landscape With A Useless Foot | © Seth Alverson

What’s next?

I have no idea. Everything happens inconsistently. I don’t have any shows coming up right now, but someone might call me tomorrow and want to do something. The next thing I’ll probably do is make another painting, show it to people, and see what happens.

What is your dream project?

I’ve lived in Houston most of my life and as you may know, the landscape is really terrible. The weather sucks, too, but that’s a different issue. Anyway, for years now I’ve wanted to build a mountain the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza. There are also lots of bats in Houston that live under bridges by the bayous. So, this mountain would not only add some color to the landscape, it would also be a bat cave for all the bats to live in. At dusk all the bats would fly out the top of the mountain like the smoke of a volcano. I would hire a death metal band to play in the foothills every night when this happens.

Pillow | © Seth Alverson

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

Technically, I’m not an artist… at least not in the sense that I make a living off of it. But if I were an artist making a living and everything went bust all of a sudden and I had make money doing something else, I suppose I would be doing something similar to what I’m doing now – which is being a curator of a private art collection. I’ve taught a little too, and I really like doing that. That’s not really viable these days, though, since it’s super competitive and adjuncts make shit for money. Maybe I could find a job at a cool museum sweeping the floors. Maybe I would be an auto mechanic. I like the smell of old cars.

How would you describe yourself as an artist in 80 characters?

An out-of-shape misanthrope seeking solace from the monotony of life.

Landscape With A Head | © Seth Alverson

Picasso or Matisse?

Matisse all the way. Although I don’t have strong feelings about either.

Apple or Android?

I have a Samsung. It’s just a better phone. Sorry nerds.

Emma Watson or Scarlett Johansson?

Scarlett Johansson is a far better actor.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee… with a little cream, no sugar.

Fame or money?

Money for sure, I don’t want strangers recognizing me. That’s creepy.

Love or friendship?

I need friendship more right now. Mostly I just want a dog friend. People make me anxious, dogs make me calm.

Tree | © Seth Alverson

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