Seth Papac received his BFA in Jewelry/Metalsmithing (2004) from the University of Washington and his MFA in Jewelry/Metalsmithing (2009) from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Seth’s work is exhibited and published in Europe as well as the United States. He is the recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant, a Peter S. Reed Foundation NY, NY grant as well as the Tobey Devan Lewis Fellowship. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR and the Rotasa Foundation, Mill Valley, CA. For the past few years he has been a Lecturer in the Jewelry and Metalwork Department at San Diego State University.
I have always used art as a means to communicate —a language written with material. The body, as a mediator, has continually been the most important aspect in this vocabulary of expression. Intimacy (touch) has always been critical —this, I attribute partially, to the experience of having a twin sister— a complex relationship of being one and two at the same time. This desire for interaction instigated my interest in architecture, a container for the body, and fashion, another container for the body. Both exist as outward expressions of the inner body. Jewelry, with its intimate scale, placement on the body, and deep history as personal signifier, presented itself as an even more potent format to reveal aspects of my inner body.
My work is sequential in nature —each body of work initiated by a surprising or uncomfortable discovery made in the previous series. This initial jumping off point can be a particular material, a color, a process or combination deemed mandatory. These required characteristics determine what I call the “flavor” for the essence of that piece. This taste for the essentials of each piece is very elusive, affording the opportunity for surprise that is critical in producing dynamic work. Visual research and sketching are rarely, if ever, part of the process of producing the pieces. Rather, an investment in physical manipulation and exploration of materials, through particular processes to create specific forms, permeates the work with a precise energy/reference that is supportive and necessary to illustrate the conceptual thrust of the series. The production of the work is not linear, shifting from piece to piece, resulting in reflective and spontaneous design resolutions. Each piece addresses the work’s conceptual goal from a singular perspective, creating a conversation about the topic with variegated voices. I am not interested in making slight variations of the same thing. The only design characteristic of my work which is standard is its relationship to the body. Through scale, my work consistently challenges the body, moving beyond the preciousness associated with jewelry and focusing on its efficacious and revelatory potential.
Conceptually my work has always dealt with uncovering a narrative or the structure of narrative as such. In the Portrait series the investigation is personal, using materials, processes, color, form and specific constructs of these variables to describe/reflect upon relationships I have with specific individuals in my life. A more general investigation takes place in the sets/accessories series where illustrations of domestic interiors attempt to allude to the type of character who would reside there. This investigation of the revelatory potential found in domestic space continued in the put on the lights series where I zoom in on the formal and symbolic language of light fixtures. As objects of literal and metaphorical revelation light fixtures illuminate space,exposing its secrets and history. When the lights went on aspects of a narrative, perhaps personal, were revealed: mens striped velour sweaters, anodized aluminum, raised phallic vessels, mid-century modern architectural screens and graphic images of cliché sunsets. These elements are converging in my studio, composing a story contextualized on the body.
To nurture a healthy and multi-faceted studio practice I find it beneficial to commit to a creative process in which various modes of production are utilized and explored to satisfy divers areas of interest. Along with producing conceptually driven one-of-a-kind work meant for gallery presentations, I am equally interested and motivated to produce production jewelry driven by process and formal design inquiries meant for wider distribution in the commercial, fine and fashion jewelry realms. I believe it is crucial to be tuned into these various contexts in which my work, and the work of my students, can exist as a means to holistically inform, enhance and expand my studio practice.
As an artist and educator, academia provides the opportunity not only to share my knowledge but to guide, support and invest in the evolution of the field. Engagement with, and advancement of, the field in its various amalgamations —academia, one of a kind art jewelry, production jewelry, fashion jewelry— is the guide with which I gauge the success of my work. Although the objectives in each context are different, commitment to excellence, ingenuity, and evolution is standard. I am, and will always be, exploring and advancing each of these ambitions