New Padnos Distinguished Artist-in-Residence wants students to understand vast opportunities in art world

Sean Carney, the new Padnos Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, has focused much of his art career researching what he calls DIY communities, where artists create their own galleries and studios rather limiting themselves to a predetermined space.

Carney said he found himself in that same situation while living in New York and realizing the cost of renting a studio to create music was prohibitive. The response was his discovery that he could create at home, in a coffee shop, while on a trip or in any number of other places.

With that and other experiences in mind, Carney hopes to impress upon Grand Valley students the limitless possibilities that await them.

"I am hoping to show the students the variety of ways people participate in the world as artists. They might be a painter or in audio production of films — there are so many different things you can do," Carney said. "I want to make them aware of the different opportunities. New York and Los Angeles are great but there are art worlds everywhere. You can live anywhere and make a culture."

Carney is continuing a line of artists dating back to 2007 to fulfill the special role in the Department of Visual and Media Arts. The position is designed to enhance the experience of art students, helping them hone their skills and understand the business side and marketplace of the art world through strong teaching and mentoring by an individual with a broad understanding of art.

Carney, a Traverse City native who is excited about coming back to Michigan, considers himself an interdisciplinary artist. He has written extensively about art and has a keen interest in art and comedy, such as his podcast, "Humor and the Abject" on humor and contemporary art.

Of late, he has worked with sound art, where he arranges pieces of sound — a recording of a train, a snippet of a TV show theme song, his own music — into an audio much the same way a painter or sculptor uses their preferred materials to create pieces.

Sean Carney
Sean Carney also operates Social Malpractice Publishing, which has produced original work for artists, writers and comedians.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

That deep and varied background in art and commentary makes Carney a natural fit for the position, said Paul Wittenbraker, professor of visual studies and foundations.

"I’m excited about Sean because his work is socially engaged," Wittenbraker said. "His work is purposely looking and listening and engaging with and understanding a place and context."

Wittenbraker said Carney's work leading the tuition-free, experimental art school through the Bruce High Quality Foundation, a New York arts collective, is a prime example of that social engagement.

Carney will teach Art 396 - Time Studio, which Wittenbraker said is a course covering contemporary art that incorporates such practices as sound, performance and video.

And in these contemporary times of uncertainty and change, Wittenbraker believes Carney can provide valuable lessons for art students eying the future.

"Given our physically distanced condition that we’re in, Sean comes with these areas of expertise in audio, podcasting and writing — skills that are really coming to the fore in terms of the way we are going to stay connected," Wittenbraker said.

Carney said that while the limitations of our current times are not ideal, they also offer an opportunity for vigorous creativity and a chance to show how nimble artists can be. He is keeping the state of flux in mind as he considers his own artistic output back in his home state.

"I'm trying to imagine how I can be generative rather than reactive," he said.