Author: Lauren Siverly
Seth Hansen, senior art major and music minor, likes to keep himself busy. Whether he’s sporting his trademark leather vest and headphones in the Green Bean, doing research for his senior comps or performing in Apollo Night, the Penis Chronicles, the Poetry Slam and Battle of the Bands (just to name a few), Hansen is a ubiquitous presence on Occidental’s campus. Luckily there is seldom an Occidental arts event that he isn’t included in. His music and art are both intriguing and fun for the listener and viewer.
This fall, his senior comprehensive fusing auditory stimuli and painting was displayed in the Weingart Art Gallery. Hansen has a disorder called synesthesia, meaning his brain associates sounds with colors and movements. Essentially, he has the ability to see what he hears. Hansen utilized this for his art and created paintings based upon three different sound categories: environments such as the Green Bean, songs and people’s voices. The latter was a part of an interactive exhibit where he held conversations with attendees and painted their voices as they spoke. He explains part of his inspiration by stating, “I’ve been trying to merge music and art together more. I’m putting two of my passions, music and art, together and with my synesthesia it makes perfect sense.”
In addition to his work in visual art, Hansen performs regularly with a few different bands, including two metal bands and a folk band. Hansen explained, “I have so much I’m working on right now with my music.” His varied interests add complexity to his art and, most directly, to his senior comprehensive.
Hansen showed artistic interest at a young age. “I started drawing when I was about seven or eight … I was really into action figures so I made my own. My first was of Donkey Kong. I was really proud of them, and I just continued to teach myself more.” Hansen also gained valuable experience by watching his father, an amateur artist. “I’m a big visual learner so I would watch my dad draw and play music, so from that I sort of gleaned my own style,” Hansen said. His father also encouraged him to interact with music. “When my sister and I would watch him play with his band, he would be like, ‘Oh, here’s a wood block,’ and then I’d play along and he’d go, ‘Wow! You keep time pretty well for an 8-year-old’,” said Hansen.
One particular experience in professor Linda Stark’s drawing class shaped the rest of his artistic career at Occidental, “I was drawing a giant toad destroying New York, and it wasn’t turning out how I wanted and I was getting frustrated, but she just encouraged me and showed me that I shouldn’t be afraid to create and embrace my own style.” This kind of support helped mature Hansen’s style during his time at Occidental.
Within the music department, Hansen found another mentor in Jennifer Logan. “She’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever known … she’s really on the cutting-edge side of things. What I’ve learned from her and her own work makes her one of my favorite professors,” Hansen stated.
Her work inspired Hansen in his pursuits as he tinkered in less traditional types of music. Hansen also added some admiration for Music History professor David Kasunic. “His class was brutal, but it really taught me how to write. He has a great bullshit detector, and he is quite the scholarly gentleman.” Hansen explained that this class ended up being one of the hardest he has taken at Occidental but that he has incorporated the benefits in his mixed media style.
With his senior comps behind him, Hansen is finishing up his year as actively as he started it. His current art project requires building a guitar out of sheet metal. His ultimate goal is to make it into a functioning electric guitar. “I’m taking a break from painting a little bit, but I’m going back to sculpture because I think that’s really my calling. I’m doing more experiments with stop-motion animation and clay figures and different types of art,” Hansen said.
As for post-graduation plans, Hansen is currently applying for different art internships at institutions like the Norton Simon. Despite the fear that can come from graduating with an art degree — a field with few financial opportunities — Hansen keeps an optimistic outlook. “The future is fairly open, but I am going to just keep making music and making art and take all the opportunities I can to do it.”
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