We had the good fortune of connecting with Seth Pringle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Seth, how do you think about risk?
Failure needs to be built into your expectations. If you’re not failing with some regularity, you’re not being ambitious enough and therefore probably not realizing your full potential. Risk needs to be calculated though. Small risks can be taken on a weekly or daily basis while big risks should probably be staggered and given time for consideration,
I spent a lot of time thinking about risk and failure working for over a decade as a representative/advocate for artists with disabilities. People with disabilities are born into a culture which shields them from risk at every turn. While this can create a measure of safety, it can also stifle free will, self-determination and creativity. It also deprives individuals of their ability/right to learn and grow from their mistakes.
In an artistic practice, risk is often associated with the unknown, with trying something new and not knowing how it’s going to turn out or be received. There are many factors, both external and internal, which deter an artist from taking these risks. Externally, an artist is encouraged to establish continuity within their practice and their place in the narrative of art history. For a young artist, this can start from a natural place of being encouraged to repeat a work or technique that was interesting or successful in some way. Then, perhaps you’re applying to grad school and you want to have a coherent portfolio. Next, you’re seeking gallery representation and your gallerist encourages consistency for the sake of marketing and offering a predictable investment for collectors.
Internally, it has mostly to do with ego and an artist’s sense of their creative identity and display of mastery. As you develop a way of working and a recognizable visual aesthetic, it’s easy to become entrenched. You experiment less and therefore have fewer “failures” but your work is at risk of becoming stale and unadventurous (the risk of not incorporating enough risk!).
From a career standpoint, as an curator and exhibitions specialist, I rely on my aptitude to learn new skills in order to take on fresh challenges. Once again, I don’t want to limit my options through pigeon-holed self perceptions. I try to catch myself when my thoughts start to veer toward self-doubt. Instead, I try to think about what skills I need to strengthen in order be successful in a new role.
A few years ago, I left a full-time staff job, which I had held for over a decade, to pursue freelance work. This was a big risk, but I was confident that I had the determination to make it work and I had laid the groundwork for such a transition by developing a diverse set of skills and a robust network of contacts. It has at times been scary and stressful not knowing what’s around the corner, but it’s been totally worth it. My personal growth has been incredibly satisfying and I’ve developed more confidence to take on risk and face uncertainty with calm and focus.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My studio practice has continually evolved and, in addition to painting and ceramics, has included performance, installation and relational practice. My most involved project to date was my installation in the exhibition Alt 66 at Fairplex’s Millard Sheets Art Center in Pomona. Entitled Succulent Osmosis featuring Happy Hour Ceramics, the immersive installation included an 8′ tall papier mache saguaro cactus that you could put your face through for photos (in the spirit of the County Fair), pottery by my friends at Happy Hour Ceramics, and the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Succulent Giveaway” which distributed more than 2,000 succulent cuttings and 20,000 seeds for free to visitors. I loved exhibiting at the fair and being able to reach audiences who don’t normally see contemporary art. More than 100,000 people attended the exhibition.
As an arts professional, I pursue projects and roles where I’m able to empower people through art. That can be professional artists, people with disabilities or children. I try to always be asking the question: “Whom does art serve?” I hope that I have the reputation as someone committed to community building, education and being a champion for other artists. As a curator, I try to prompt new ways of seeing by challenging structures of compartmentalization and stratification. As a teacher, I hope to show young people that they can be in charge of their own agency and imagine their own future. As an organizer, I strive to use my creativity and determination to help artists do their best work and to bring that work to new audiences.
I work for various institutions as a freelance Curator/Exhibition Designer including The Claremont Museum of Art, The Ontario Museum of History & Art, The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts & Crafts and other private and nonprofit clients.
Balance is the biggest challenge. You have to be willing and eager to hustle in order to maintain a long-term practice as an artist, but I have to balance that with family time and day jobs. I have two beautiful daughters (8 and 11) and I spend as much time with them as I can. I try to encourage their own creative practices without putting too much pressure on them.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are so many great museums in L.A., you could spend a whole week visiting places like LACMA, the Getty, the Museum of Natural History or the Long Beach Aquarium. I especially love the Huntington Library and Gardens. The bonsai trees are my favorite and that’s where I kindled my love for succulents and cacti. After getting plant inspired there, you can drive down the street to California Cactus Center in East Pasadena to add some xeriphilic plants for your own collection. For some smaller art destinations, I would check out Craft in America Center, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions or the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles never disappoints for a deliciously filling lunch and, if you find yourself in Chinatown, give the Slippery Shrimp at Yang Chow’s a try for dinner. For a day at the beach, I like Laguna Beach for some fun tide pool exploring and gorgeous seaside cliffs.
I’m a Claremont/Inland Empire guy, so I have to also recommend visiting Claremont. The California Botanic Garden is a wonderful naturalistic garden that’s always great for a long walk. The Claremont Colleges are always a promising art destination between the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College, the Pitzer College Art Galleries, Claremont Graduate University’s galleries and plenty of outdoor sculpture/installations like the hidden gem James Turrell’s “Skyspace: Dividing the Light” on Pomona College’s campus. Also, check out the Claremont Museum of Art in the historic train depot and the American Museum of Ceramic Art down the street in Pomona. Grab a scone from Creme Bakery for breakfast and check out House of Pong for some “Hong Kong Fusion” or Viva Madrid for delicious tapas. My favorite spot for cheap tacos is Taqueria de Anda in Pomona.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe endless gratitude to my amazing wife Tara. She puts up with a lot of chaos and I couldn’t do it without her. I also want to recognize my daughters (8 and 11) who give me all the love, encouragement and inspiration I could ever ask for.
My cohort of artists from grad school (Claremont Graduate University) provide me with endless encouragement and inspiration. I love being able to scroll through Instagram and see what everyone is working on. It’s a privilege to know such creative and hard-working people.
Perhaps my most formative creative influence was my best friend growing up, Mike Tolan. He’s an incredibly talented musician (he goes by Talons) and he helped me stay sane as an adolescent in small town Ohio. We would make music and art and enjoy comfortable silences. It’s so valuable to have a friend who just gets you creatively, especially at that age and in a community basically devoid of art.
Tom & Toni Bostic