Interview with artist Sean FaderNovember 12, 2007
*from ‘I Want to Put You On.’ More downloadable images at seanfader.com
* from ‘We are the Untitled.” More downloadable images at seanfader.com
Raised in Ridgewood, NJ, Sean Fader spent his life acting, singing, and dancing since he was five years old. After attending Northwestern and The New School University, he performed on several national tours with stops both on and off-Broadway. Sean then earned his MA in digital arts from The Maryland Institute College of art and is now finishing his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Sean currently resides in Chicago.
Sean Fader has been involved in a lot of Chicago art exhibitions, ‘This is not a self-portrait,’ at Queerfest Midwest and in October his work was showing at the Center on Halsted in the exhibition “Creative Convergence.”
I caught up with Sean and asked him about his art. Here is an excerpt from the interview, the whole conversation can viewed below after the jump.
J.Polera) What is the difference between queering and queer art?
S.Fader) Queering is an active verb, you can queer something. I tend to use queering more than queer. There are two points about queering in art: first it is subversive against the white hetero-norm and second it is a more inclusive view of the world. If we are all in a pie, there is a very narrow slice that is hetero-normative white men and all the rest of us are queer.
JP) How is queering happening in your work?
SF) Well in the body of work I want to put you on, I place myself in my friends or family member’s bodies. I turn my friends bodies into a kind of zip-up suit that I wear in the photo. In the ‘Raini’ I am wearing this hot titted body. It makes a lot of people, especially straight men, really uncomfortable.
READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH SEAN FADER
Q. How long have you been involved in Art?
Sean Fader: All my life. But I was an actor first and went to college
for acting. I had been taking pictures since I was very young in the
darkroom my mom set up in our basement. I came to be a visual artist
almost by accident. I went to go London to see a friend in a play and
I took the opportunity to make the obligatory ‘backpacking across
Q.) Kind of like the ‘Gran Tour’ in the 1800′s, were young men would
make pencil sketches of Italy and Greece ?
Kind of. I took an old tank 35mm camera and started taking pictures.
When I got back to New York a friend of mine offered to exhibit some
of my work in a cybercafe.
Q.) Why did you decide to exhibit?
Sean: It was a zero cost exhibition. They let me use their equipment
and they printed the photos. The exhibition ended up selling better
than any other they had shown. So I decided, “I really like taking
photos.” And I decided to change directions with my life and become an
Q) What is art?
Sean: (laughs) Everything is art.
Q.) Can you explain that?
Can anyone give a definition of art? When you walk into a room, you
can point to something and say “That is art, but that is not art” ?
Art is subjective to each person but in the collective sense it can be anything.
Q.) Is your photography art?
Some of it is, but some of it isn’t. If I take head shots or wedding
photos or event photography, that is not part of my art. There are
artists who use photography and there just photographers who don’t
think of themselves as artists.
Q.) What makes an artist successful?
Getting the work out there and seen. The artwork needs exposure and
an audience. Two ways of becoming successful: one, you can be an
incredible reclusive genius and make brilliant work or two you can be
really social and make connections like a motherfucka. Most artists
are a little of both.
Q.) What are you?
A crazy party monster who is a workaholic and a very academic.
Q.) Where do you see yourself in five years?
I am right now working on my wikipedia biography and it will lay out
my whole life story. I believe you can write your own future to some
extent. I think we can make things happens.
Q.) You were included in Queerfest Midwest in 2007, why did you participate?
It sounded like fun.
Q.) Are you a queer artist?
(Quickly responds) There is some queering happening in my work.
Q.) What is the difference between queering and queer art?
A.) Queering is an active verb, you can queer something. I tend to use
queering more than queer. There are two points about queering in art:
first it is subversive against the white hetero-norm and second it is a
more inclusive view of the world. If we are all in a pie, there is a
very narrow slice that is hetero-normative white men and all the rest
of us are queer.
Q.) How is queering happening in your work?
A. ) Well in the body of work ” I want to put you on” I place
myself in my friends or family member’s bodies. I turn my friends
bodies into a kind of zip-up suit that I wear in the photo. In the
‘Raini’ I am wearing this hot titted body. It makes a lot of people,
especially straight men, really uncomfortable.
Q). What is so uncomfortable?
A.) A lot of guys will see the photo and be attracted to me. Or they will
hold their hand up and block my face and say ‘ she’s hot but I hate
that your bearded face is there.’ It really messes with some people’s
sexuality. It puts you in the gray area of not being sure if the photo
is of a girl or a guy or something else.
Q.) Is sexuality about being a guy vs. being a girl?
A.) Well, your biological sex has more to do with gender but it is related
to sexuality. I had a trans person come up to me an say ” It took me
years and surgery and a lot of hormones to do what you did in
Q.) Do you think it is important that we exhibit queer artwork?
A.) Queer art work is great and it can be a vital part of a community much
larger than gay or lesbian, which I think is very limiting. But I’m
not interested in building a history of queer art to solidify my
existence. Some people say I’m a really great “gay artist”, but this
can be a huge stumbling block when people approach my work. I am gay
but my art work is not necessarily gay. Queering is important because
it opens up new possibilities. Ultimately, some people will
understand my work and some people won’t, I just move on and keep
Q.)Why is queering important in your work?
A.) It is about making it different or odd. It is against the hetero-norm,
what ever that is. I don’t want to meet normal people anyway. I like
craziness. I need crazy people in my life. When I go out at night,
alone, I meet the best crazies. Sometimes I say “WOW, that is a new
brand of crazy I have never met before,” and it’s incredible.
Q.) Can art change the world?
Yes. I’m not sure it can but I am sure that the only way art can make
an impact is if people believe it can. No single act of art can make
a difference but artists can reshape the way we see the world. We can
create a different set of rules. But the horizon is always fuzzy.
–Interview by Justin Polera