Queer Experience is Art
In celebration of Queer & Well’s launch, we sat down with the fabulous artist and co-owner/founder of Moth Belly Gallery, SEIBOT. They breathed life into the beautifully soft and captivating Queer & Well graphic designs. We dove into how SEIBOT came into art, what it was like to grow their artistic footprint during the pandemic, and how art and queerness intersect.
[Note: The interview is edited for clarity and brevity]
How did you come to pursue art?
I like to say I’ve been doing art my whole life. Growing up in the early ’90s meant we didn’t have tech toys like iPads, so I spent a lot of time creating, drawing, and writing. Throughout my life, I constantly heard that pursuing a real job as an artist meant I wouldn’t be able to make a living, so I was fearful of becoming a full-time artist. So I kept resisting that urge until I hit a low point professionally in 2018. At that moment, I told myself it was now or never and made the jump into making art my “real job.” Almost three years in, and here we are!
What was the experience like growing your art career during the pandemic?
I started my career with art assisting jobs and, over time, began to take on solo projects. Initially, I took on smaller projects like clients asking for backyard murals, which led to more extensive projects via word of mouth. It all came to a halt when the COVID-19 lockdown hit. Unfortunately, I wasn’t receiving many mural projects then, but this led me to discover street art, which became an excellent outlet for the isolation I was experiencing during the pandemic.
The beauty of street art is how abundant it is. I began to experiment with plywood painting and simpy creating pieces for free. I think the pandemic led to a resurgence of street and mural art due to the sudden availability of space. I also built connections with even more creatives, muralists, and street artists looking to build communities.
In these spaces, I met John Vochatzer, “Calamity Fair,” artist and co-founder of Moth Belly, which we built as a community gallery, DIY space, and all-encompassing creative headquarters in the San Francisco Tenderloin.
What is your POV on art and artists?
There are a couple of things at play here. First, I think there is a “romanticized” idea of what an artist encapsulates that we need to clear up. There’s this notion that we sit around until inspiration strikes, but this isn’t often the reality of what we do. Most professional artists will go to their studios and hone their craft day-in and day-out, creating things whether they’re inspired or not so that when inspiration actually hits, they’ll be ready to receive it.
I also try to avoid saying art is either good or bad because it’s hard to make judgment calls when art is so deeply personal. However, I will say that there is art that feels like it comes from a genuine place, and this is the type of work I tend to connect with and support.
I’ve often gravitated to “outsider art,” which is any art made outside the mainstream community that is not intended to be shown or sold (e.g., crafts). It feels inherently beautiful because it comes from a real place. With that said, I’m also immersed in the gallery art world, which is art made for consumption, so overall, it’s a mixed bag for me.
Ultimately, art should be accessible to everybody, and it’s valid even if you don’t show it or monetize it, and everybody should be able to do it.
What is your take on art as a form of care both personally and for the community?
Queer people have been supporting themselves and each other forever. Historically, queer artists like musicians, designers, and sculpture builders have always connected their work to a deeper meaning because this notion is ingrained in queer culture. And we see this today; whether we are hosting dinner parties, creating flyers for an event, or making protest art, we are often creating things for one another.
This is part of why I wanted to collaborate with the Center for Queer & Well. As a local queer artist living in SF, I want us to get to know each other. Queerness is a part of me that I love deeply, and the more involved I can be in community work and spaces that are important to the community like the Center, the better.
Being queer in and of itself means that your connection to art and creativity has an innate quality. Queer experience is art.