As an outside artist operating without boundaries or perceived artist expectations, Seth Chwast has the freedom to represent his worldview in a pure, uninhibited form. Seth’s aesthetic spans across a number of different mediums and styles including thematic primitive art, abstract expressionism, surrealism and pop art. Born out of a unique relationship with his surroundings, Seth’s approach to color and form is both ambitious and instinctive, employing a playful and saturated pallet to his imaginative paintings and sculptures.
Diagnosed with autism as a very young child, he lived for years in a world of roller coasters, haunted houses and classical music. A dramatic change came in 2003, when at age 20 he took an oil painting class at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Seth, who rarely speaks, began describing his world in paint. He displayed an innate ability to mix colors and create amazing works of art that reflect his vision of his world and the world around him.
Seth began painting with artists willing to enter his world and a never-ending stream of creative, dedicated Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) student/mentors – out poured horses, auroras, whales and self-studies.
In March 2007, Seth began to travel. After experiencing Costa Rica, Seth’s art exploded with the colors of the tropics. A trip to Galapagos was planned. Meanwhile, Seth had solo exhibits at University Hospitals of Case Western Reserve University and at the Cleveland Clinic. Both institutions purchased paintings. Seth received a second call from The Today Show, asking if he would like to be featured again on New Year’s Day 2008 as their most inspirational story of the year. By the time they returned to film him, in one year Seth had produced another 116 paintings.
Seth traveled to Galapagos in November 2007, where he scheduled his first international exhibition at the Madejski Gallery, opening on March 28, 2008. Filled with confidence and excitement, Seth went to the Cayman Islands and met with the director of the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, who scheduled a solo exhibition of his work for October 25 through February 25, 2009. Seth’s second trip to Galapagos included an opening reception for 150 people, including the mayor and the governor of Galapagos. Seth and the exhibition were featured on national television.
Seth regularly flies to New York to paint with Kip Jacobs, a world renowned artist, creating Manhattan cityscapes and mobiles. In July 2008, Seth participated in the Art Omi International Artists Residency in New York’s Berkshires. On opening day, he was seen by the Chelsea Art Museum’s Nicollette Ramirez, who reviewed for Whitehot Magazine and named Seth as one of three outstanding American artists of the residency. Seth and his mom returned to Cayman for three visits during his exhibition, to be on national television, to give gallery tours and to meet with special needs staff and families.
Seth was invited by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) to participate in Visions of Galapagos, “a collaborative effort between the museum, painter Seth Chwast and the Dittrick Medical History Center,” part of the museum’s Darwin Year, running July 18 to October 11, 2009.
In 2010, Seth completed Manhattan Floating, a mural composed of 104 paintings, eleven feet high and twenty-six feet wide. It showed Manhattan filled with roller coasters, sea animals and mythic creatures. It was displayed at 55 5th Avenue for eighteen months and then moved to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, NY.
Seth was invited to exhibit in Kiev, in a group exhibition, Neurodiversity, curated by Koan Jeff Baysa at the Museum of Modern Art Ukraine. Seth sent two large self studies.
Seth was invited to exhibit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center from September to November 2011. He exhibited in Curacao from November 2011 to January 2012. He returned to CMNH in March 2012 to provide the companion exhibition of his art for Mythical Creatures, which traveled from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
On January 25th, 2012, The United Nations announced the winning artists for the Autism awareness stamp. Seth’s mythic mural image is now on a United Nations stamp. The launch party was at the United Nations on April 3rd, 2012. Seth, his family, and friends, were invited to a ceremony at the United Nations, hosted by the secretary general, and then to a dinner at the Bangladesh Embassy.
On April 2nd, Seth exhibited his art at the Strokes of Genius benefit, curated by Dr. Rosa C. Martinez, on the United Nations Plaza. Seth and his mom have started a series of inspirational presentations and book signings in Cayman, Curacao, Toronoto, Austin (TX), Hudson (NY), Memphis (TN), Fargo (ND) and Orlando (FL). They work with autism organizations throughout America and Canada.
Seth designed the Big Bang as a poster for ChamberFest 2012, Cleveland. He created Light it Up Blue for the Chef’s Gala, the Autism Speaks Benefit at Cipriani Wall Street restaurant in NYC, October 2012.
Seth provided 124 paintings and artist statements for his mother, Debra Chwast’s book, An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism and Art. He is currently working on a children’s book of Mythic Creatures.
Greg Foster, a Marine Biologist with passions for art, anthropology and philosophy, has started writing a book, A Portal into the Mind of Seth Chwast: Mining the Hidden Treasures of an Autistic Artist. Greg will use the software for analyzing coral reefs, to compare the archetypal images in Seth’s art to the motifs in Sumerian, Indus Valley, Greek, Aboriginal and Plains Indian art and architecture.
“The Artistic Autistic Mind: a glimpse at the work of Seth Chwast” opened on April 6th, 2014 at The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. This monumental exhibition was Seth’s first solo showcase at a major art museum. On September 25th, 2014, Seth’s art will be featured at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota as part of an exhibition entitled, “Vivid”. On April 12th, 2015, Seth will exhibit his art at the Autism Institute of Gwynedd Mercy University in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania.