Four Inane Questions with artist Seth Smith

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Seth Smith. // Courtesy Seth Smith

With the Plaza Art Fair opening this weekend, we thought it only appropriate to spotlight a few local artists making their triumphant return to the prestigious event. Earlier this week, we showcased artist Jenny Meyer-McCall who celebrates her 11th appearance this year. 

Next up is Kansas native Seth Smith, a painting/printmaking KU grad who has built a name for himself by creating a venerated hodge-podge of abstract work and luminous paintings of tourist havens from days gone by. (If you’ve spied his work, you know he has a propensity for recreating the motif of ’60s-esque diners and roadside/seaside motels.)

While he’s a popular staple at national art shows, he’s also found a fandom here locally. In 2006, the H&R Block World Headquarters acquired a piece of Seth’s work for their permanent collection. The University of Kansas Business School, meanwhile, has also procured his handiwork for their permanent collection.

We quizzed the artist as he was getting ready to set up his Plaza Art Fair booth—no. 500, mind you—and peppered him with our series of absurd questions. He was a trooper.


The Pitch: What are your thoughts on liquid soap?

Seth Smith: If I have to loofa in a guest bathroom shower, I’m in trouble. I need solid original flavor yellow Dial or else. I need a bar I can hold. It’s the only way I feel clean. Do they still make Lava soap?

Liquid soap is for hands only. I also prefer it to be scented according to season. If I’m in someone’s powder room in June and the soap is gingerbread or pine tree, I get very disoriented. 

Growing up, name something you were watching that you knew you probably weren’t allowed to watch.

Anything on cable channel 30 late at night in Wichita, Kansas. Cinemax. Anytime something remotely risqué comes on these days I still listen for parents walking on creaking boards or stairs. [laughs]

What beloved artist’s work do you absolutely despise?

When I was younger I would’ve easily listed five artists right away. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I appreciate and understand more where people are coming from. Also, tastes change. I don’t like definitively stating that there is art I don’t like because I can certainly find things I can appreciate—even in the most ridiculous things. 

However, I very much dislike certain traits in artists. Arrogance, pretension, and trying to be something you are not. Don’t be an ass. Be gracious. 

Always remember how insanely lucky you are to have found a thing you love to do. Many people search their whole lives and never find that. 

Which Wayans brother is the best Wayans brother?

I’m going to have to go with Damon Wayans, Jr. because he was in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, which is an underrated and fantastic movie. #Trish

Obviously, the entire family is insanely talented. In Living Color was one of the most important things to ever happen in comedy and culturally. Representation matters. And it gave a new generation a voice. Amazing talent.

Bonus 5th Question: If you weren’t an artist, what would be when you grew up?

I’d love to own a little bar in some town right on Lake Superior, or just off Duval in Key West. Not too big. Mostly locals. We’d daily have lunch specials of freshly caught whatever brought in by a family that has been doing it for generations.

We’d have the best jukebox around—where special things would happen in the bar when certain songs were played—and an amazing view of the sunset over the water from the patio. Dogs welcome—encouraged even. 

Categories: Culture