All images courtesy the artist
“The Buddha said, ‘It’s the not seeing of this suffering that keeps us bound,’” quotes Sean E Conroy on his website. His work is boundary pushing in multiple senses: not only does his innovative style makes use of unconventional media in even less conventional ways, but it also attempts to bend and break the blinding boundaries discussed in his quote. In line with much Eastern and some Western postmodern thought, Conroy hopes to find unity through the artistic process by doing what artists and thinkers from Sartre to Slim Shady have attempted. He wants to lose himself.
Sean’s interested in the things that shake up his viewers. He finds a lack of comfort productive, for it requires that one forgets the “unfailing will to love and protect visions.” If this all seems too vaguely heady to cultivate any real, interesting product, think again. When viewed, Sean’s work requires no written explanation.
Conroy started sculpting with clay in high school, thanks to a particularly artistic teacher who “had a kiln, glazes, tools and a few tricks up his sleeve.” Since those days, he’s begun experimenting with other mediums. His favorites as of late include steel, wire, pig intestine, bamboo, feathers, horns and fur. He’s also had some particularly intriguing experiments with wearable art. “When in costume you tend to relate to the object more then if you were just standing back from it,” he said. Seeing his skull-and-feather-adorned headpieces, we can believe it.
Sean’s body of work is self contained. A risk-taker, he speaks about his art with great confidence. Initially, though, he required a strong support system to gain such security. He found that system here in Baltimore, thanks to the Maryland Institute College of Art. While he admits that “art school is not for everyone,” he also expressed his gratitude to have found a group of people who shifted his perception. “That is not unusual while at school, what was unusual was who I considered a teacher.”
At MICA, he was exposed to other free-thinking artists, some of whom were “willing to speak their minds freely without a totally volatile front,” but some who were confrontational and generally unpleasant. Learning to navigate such situations provided him with artistic perspective, maintaining his beliefs without becoming overly defensive. “In the end,” he thinks, “truth does not necessarily have a contract with sanity, so take your own advi[c]e first when it comes to your art.”
A disbeliever in mind-body dualism, the artist has found that “the notion that we live in a separate state from our surroundings, nature and the unconscious is an illusion.” His innerworkings, then, are inextricable from his physical being and creations. Perhaps this is related to his marriage to sculpture over other art forms. He spoke of his love of the sculpting process, how he can “refine a form better” when he can “see all sides of it” and use all of his senses to best embody his vision. The process, as he describes it, enables and requires a sort of empathy with the medium that cannot be found with two dimensional forms. “Really,” he said, “we live in and live as sculptures.”
As is mentioned in his website’s biography, “creativity is the conduit to understanding our own experience.” Sean alternately speaks to importance in the creative process, and the belief “it [is] not so much how you make it but what you choose to make.” In some ways, however, this is fitting for an artist who believes in fluid truth. The vagueness in his philosophical ideas preserves this. His thoughts, like his work, are wrought with potential energy.
Conroy is currently working with painter Adam Scott Miller on pieces for Telesma. The props he creates for their new album’s music videos are sure to fill viewers with wonder. Check him out at Telesma’s Resurrection Show this Friday, if you can. We hear he knows some boundaries that are waiting to be broken.