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Artist of the Month: Trash brings inspiration in Art Alliance Recycled Show

by on April 25, 2019 11:26 AM

Often, society associates art with a beautiful painting or an intricate drawing. However, there are some people, such as Marilyn Seeling, who can find art in just about any tangible material. Whether it’s trash, an old piece of wood from her barn, or simply an old newspaper, it can be art.

For 10 years, Seeling has contributed to the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania’s Recycled Show. This year’s theme, for the 25th annual show, is Water, Water, Everywhere!

For this year’s show, Seeling is creating a sculpture of a polar bear made from all recycled materials such as dog food bags and Floracraft Styrofoam balls.

“I love this year’s theme because it is all made from things that would normally be thrown away,” says Seeling.

Water, Water, Everywhere! opens with a reception May 3 from 5-8 p.m. and continues until May 26 at the Art Alliance Downtown Gallery in State College. The juror for the exhibit is Joyce Henri Robinson and it is curated and coordinated by Anni Matsick.

The exhibit features 30 artists who have created 60 works of two- and three-dimensional pieces. All are made to explain plastic’s effect on our environment and society.

“Some people get into the meaning with their art, whereas for my art, what you see is what you get,” says Seeling.

She chose to create a sculpture of a polar bear for this exhibit because of the constant climate changes in colder countries where polar bears are affected.

Animals are Seeling’s favorite sculptures to create. Last year, Seeling made two elephants for the theme Green is the New Black.

“My inspiration for this piece were these two elephants who were separated for 25 years and finally brought back together in a refugee camp,” says Seeling.

Art has always been a part of Seeling’s life. Her mother and father established the roots for this hobby.

“My mother pressed flowers and when my dad retired, he loved to carve birds out of wood and sold them as a hobby,” says Seeling.

Seeling is a graduate of Penn State’s art education program. Upon graduation, she taught art as a substitute teacher for seven years from kindergarten all the way to community colleges.

She is the currently liaison for a small group of peers as a volunteer through her local church, Trout Run United Methodist Church. “I’m the person that brings people together. I don’t teach them; I like to think of myself as more of their cheerleader,” says Seeling. 

Seeling and her husband, David, live in Williamsport on a 90-acre farm with plenty of materials she can use to create her sculptures. She spends most of her time in her home studio.

“My husband and I found our current home and barn abandoned, so we decided to fix it up,” says Seeling, whose home was built in 1835 and used in the Underground Railroad.

“David always finds me in the barn looking for materials to use on my projects,” says Seeling, who has a knack for fixing broken things. Her son Daniel, one of her three children, describes her as someone who can’t go anywhere without finding something to use for her art.

Seeling enjoys using old, broken items to create something new, rather than throwing them away.

“Art is about experimenting and delving into a project,” she says.

Seeling doesn’t plan out any of her projects or finish them right away. Rather, she works on the sculptures when she feels like it, and if she can’t sleep at night, you can find her working in her studio.

Seeling enjoys doing art with her six grandchildren, who like helping her with the polar bear.

“My 7-year-old granddaughter asked me if I get a cash reward for this, does she get some of it?” says Seeling.

Seeling says she is looking forward to the exhibit and seeing all of the familiar faces from the Art Alliance, which has become a big part of her life. Unlike most conventional sculptures, Seeling’s doesn’t cost anything and she is eager to see how people react to it.

“I hope that people learn that things you might throw away don’t always have to be,” says Seeling, “When everything is so serious in the world, art like this is fun.”


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