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Against Perfection: An Interview with Motherseth

In an Orlando apartment—with a static unmoving layer of marijuana smoke, an iguana named “Hummus” freely roaming on the kitchen tile, Kodak Black playing, and four large canvases in the living room—Motherseth is painting a BDSM bondage scene onto an orange jacket.

He gestures towards the jacket and asks me, “What do you see?”

I tell him that I see a woman in leather digging her heel into a man with a leash around his neck—and that I can’t figure out if the man is wearing pants or not. “Good”, he says.

Motherseth is a Florida artist that first emerged on the local art scene with a series of groups shows alongside artists like Jawl Nini, Vickie Wilson, and Halsi. Now, he’s working on his debut exhibition, “Fear of God”. This newest series is set to be exhibited at Downtown Arts Collective’s newest gallery sometime in July of this year.

I’m honestly unsure what his work will look like at the exhibition—in the middle of May I interviewed him and at that time, all of the paintings featured semi-nude anime girls. Now, those are all gone. The new art is completely different: splattered paint, 3-foot skulls, muted colors, and strange protruding textures. And they’re changing every time I see them. (The art was so different that I had to scrap the entire first interview.)

Q: Why the name ‘Motherseth’?

A: I like how rappers and all these other big artists back then always went by a big name, like Daddy Yankee, Big Pun, Don Omar. I was doing something like that: like Daddy Yankee and all them. So, it’s Motherseth. That's the gist of it. But you know I'm not trying to be egotistical. I'm not really like a rapper, but I have rapper energy. I'm the mom of this shit. I came up. I did it, you know. I'm a guy but I’m mother, I nurture situations and I've always been mother. I am mom. Mami Seth.

Q: Last time I interviewed you, less than three weeks ago, all of the artwork had anime girls on them. Now, they’re entirely different. What made you change them? Are these the same canvases?

A: I don't know why I did it, I just did it. I wasn't feeling them anymore. I liked the anime stuff, I dove into it and just decided to try something else. I was painting shit before that was a mix of an aggressive and kind of figurative thing with these little pop art things like anime or pop culture references. Then I just started doing the anime and that's been like two to four years and now I'm done with it. I just literally woke up and I wasn't feeling it. And I started painting some other shit on it. I gessoed everything. In some of them I painted over them. You can still see some of the anime actually. I worked on those paintings for like six months. Fucking crazy. Those took forever and then I did this shit in like 2 seconds. My last girlfriend tells me I'm really self-destructive. She told me that I always know how to fuck everything up for myself.

Q: Your past work always seemed to be explicitly religious, depicting the last supper and Christ on the cross and other religious images. How is “Fear of God” different from the other art that you’ve exhibited? Are there any commonalities between them?

A: Nothing is in common. Nothing at all. It's just absolute aggressive energy and India ink. It's a direct shield to block off rays of mass mental destruction. Or whatever my feeling is. It's in the moment. When I feel sad or angry, I just go and explode in front of the canvas, just like I used to when I was a kid. Instead of being bored and doing some bad shit I’m forced to express it on paper. Eventually, my parents moved us out to Kissimmee. The other side of Disney, It’s nothing like they show you, it's really rural in some areas and the other side is covered by extended-stay motels. I lived in the very rural part for the first five years of living there so I was forced to calm down and kinda just read and study art. Instead of doing whatever I was doing I just started painting the energy I was carrying, the things I was feeling. I think it helped me develop a different way of thinking.

Before all my work was all planned out. Now it’s like you’re about to have sex: you're ready, you’re hard, go put it in. I'm diving into how I feel. I paint whatever's coming to me. I leave it at that; I don't try to fix it. I don't try to add any coating to it. I mean I add lacquer or maybe some varnish. Before, it was aggressive but I would come back and clean it up, do a little airbrush on the sides just to soften up the edges. This is like the complete opposite. This is just like violent, erratic, hard, horny, fuck you... I don’t really want it to be clean because clean is perfect. I feel like tainting them to look like this shows my reality, at least how I see things in my mind. It’s easy to make things picture perfect—but you can’t plan this out. I literally grabbed towels and splattered, splattered, splattered. I’d like for it to be known—I can make it perfect, at one time these were all perfect pictures of anime girls but that’s not what I wanted. That has no feeling; there is no angst to that. Not for nothing, there is a lot of emotion when you start splattering and shit. If I was to technically just draw it then it would have nothing to do with me. It’s like I’m doing it for no reason: it becomes like work, like actual work. This is an extension of me. I just feel like it's more of a psychological feeling, I feel like my mind has been changing and I feel like I need to paint some shit instead of being violent. That's how I'm doing it. I'm just painting violence.

Q: Some of these paintings have interesting colors and textures—what type of materials do you work with?

A: I just use these really, really, funny looking brushes. They're just like the ones that are used to prime wood and shit. I use the big brushes. I use India ink and that's it. It's super simple. India ink and the brushes. Some of them got a little bit of spray paint. Some of these are done with insulation and pee. Its literal pee mixed with the ink wash and then I paint it on it and then I insulated it. I also spit, like when you're smoking the blunt or something like that and you spit. I spit on one of them. This one [with the textured insulation] is just layered with a bunch of different things from my environment. My fucking tobacco spit, my urine, ink wash, screen printed, oil pastel. There’s fucking vegetable oil on this.

Q: In 2020, your artwork was selected by the Biden Campaign to be on the stage during his televised campaign rally in Kissimmee. How was that experience and how’d you feel about it?

A: I was kind of young and willing to take the opportunity and it was a good opportunity. It's just, we all know what it was for. You know what I mean? I'm not proud to really put it on my belt like that. It's like saying, “okay, it's cool you came out here and wanted some artwork but, what was the reasoning for it?” If you saw the speech he did, the paintings are like damn near hidden. All he was trying to do is get all these Spanish people that were living in Kissimmee to vote for him. And it worked. I was living there in Kissimmee and my parents were living there too. My parents voted for him. I didn't vote for him.

A Motherseth paintings hangs in the background as Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin looks on as Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a Hispanic heritage event at Osceola Heritage Park on Sept. 15, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Q: Do you think you should have been paid for the Biden thing?

A: Of course. That's the only reason I'm kind of mad about it. That's why I say I was young and naive. Now I wouldn't even do it. I don't like anything political. I don't like being affiliated with political things. I'm not trying to be affiliated with Democrats or Republicans. It's all literally the same. I knew that before. I know it now. It's just I thought I was going to get something out of it.

Q: Is Orlando embedded in this work? Do you think your work would be different if you lived somewhere like Miami or New York?

A: Hell nah. I was drawing some of this stuff when I was twelve in South Florida. I like living in Orlando, I genuinely enjoy being here but I don’t think any of my stuff has anything to do with Orlando. I don’t care about the area; it doesn’t really affect what I do—I could paint anywhere. I’d be down to paint in space. If Elon Musk hit me up to paint in space I would.

FEAR OF GOD the debut solo exhibition by Motherseth will open on July 30 at 643 Lexington Ave Orlando, FL Follow @motherseth

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