Collage Artist Seth Clark Explores Fragmentation and Decay

Courtesy of Seth Clark

Seth Clark is a Pittsburgh designer and collage artist whose work focuses on deteriorating architecture. He creates collage and sculpture from found materials including wood, paper, and other media. He grew up in Seekonk, Massachusetts and earned his BFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008.

After graduating he moved to Pittsburgh and has been working out of his studio at artists’ collective Radiant Hall since 2013. Seth has received numerous honors, including being named Pittsburgh’s 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. He is the founder of Studio Direct, an innovative arts funding model that connects artists directly to their patrons, and also works as Studio Director of Radiant Hall in Lawrenceville.

Courtesy of Seth Clark
Courtesy of Seth Clark

Although print design and alternative typography were his focus, in his sophomore year of college he discovered collage. He enjoys the tactility of the materials and the process. “One of the things that kept me working on collages was that I couldn’t afford art supplies but could pick up trash on the street for free,” laughs Seth.

He uses a combination of found scraps and ephemera along with various kinds of store-bought handmade paper.

“Combining a dirty old receipt with fancy Japanese paper works within the subject matter of fragmented and deteriorating architecture. It meshes well with collage.”

Abandoned, my first series… when I moved to Pittsburgh, consisted of images of specific houses that had been abandoned in Detroit. I was attracted to this because there were houses that had been lived in and loved and appreciated by many families and individuals. They had history; I wanted to preserve those images.”

Seth also draws inspiration from walking through the alleyways of Pittsburgh, and sometimes receives photos of structures from people he knows. Using mostly paper and wood, he builds upon digitally sketched photos, layering the materials by tearing off pieces and putting them wherever they fit. He also uses ink washes to define shadows, and paint, if a specific color or effect is desired.

“It’s surprising,” he says, “as I go along just covering up spaces, the building kind of forms on its own. We have a fascination with building things up and trying to make them last. There is sadness in tearing them down, but beauty in rebuilding. I like to watch the way things fall. The world is always falling apart and coming back together. It’s like we have a collapsing understanding of ourselves.”

Play More II Courtesy of Seth Clark
Play More II
Courtesy of Seth Clark

Currently Seth is the May 2016 featured artist with Start with Art, an organization which promotes artists in the Pittsburgh region by giving original, signed photographs from local photographers to newborn babies at the Midwife Center, St. Clair Hospital and UPMC Mercy. A departure from his usual style of work, his featured photograph, Play More II, is one in an ongoing series of photographs that are created with various oddities from his studio.

“The pleasure of building things up and breaking them down has influenced my work as long as I can I remember. These miniature, temporary installations are a joy to make and remind me of how important it is to constantly experiment and make beautiful messes.”