Seth is the California-based artist behind ParadiseLost on Etsy. This is the first piece from his shop that I fell in love with, The Book Will Save Me. I love this work, first off, on a strictly personal level. There have been periods of my life where I have found the right book at the right time, and it has made all the difference. This image is haunting, with the twigs and consumptive figure clutching the book out of sheer desperation. Such a provoking, emotional piece.
Like most of us who make things, I think it's difficult for Seth to explain why he creates what he creates. I read an interview once with Stephen King, and he said the question people ask him most often is "Why do you write all that scary stuff?" The implication is, there must be something wrong with you if that's where your inspirations lie. King explained it something like this. We all have filters in our brains. What sticks in my filter may run right through yours. The stuff that sticks is where our inspiration comes from. You don't choose what sticks and what doesn't.
With My Apologies to Vermeer, Seth takes the well known painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer, and alters the image to show the skull beneath. Why? Well, this is what sticks in his filter. Or, as he explains in his profile, "It is hard to put into words why I paint or draw things that are dark or evil. The best way I know to explain is that they are an attempt to find good by contrast. The world without these opposing elements is not one I care to live in. I am a student of the Old Masters who recognized a profound elegance in both." This image is as gorgeous and lush as the original, and it achieves that beauty by turning the original on its skull, so to speak.
Another fine example of this philosophy is The Piano Teacher, a stylized, romanticized scene of an Old Masters' painting, with the potential darkness that lies beneath completely exposed. It's that contrast between the rich and expected classical image with the flashing one bit of darkness that has been revealed that gives Seth's work such a sense of frission and impact. It also plays with our modern idea of "The Good Old Days," the simpler past. The past had its own set of evils and complications. Parting the heavy drapery so we can see that--now that's a talent.