Cody Seekins: Sensational Psychedelia

Cody Seekins is a digital and physical artist based in Hua Hin, Thailand. His art often involves the psychedelic, featuring zany fusions of every day and pop culture with morphological themes. Despite its visual appeal, his is work is deeply intellectually informed, and talking with him what came across primarily was the erudite inspiration behind his work.

“I was going deeper and deeper into that condition, that non-ordinary awareness. I was amazed at what happened. There was no planning to it – it was literally an emergent art form.”

Seekins is quite open about the exploratory process which drove his work. During his late teens, he began embarking on psychonautical expeditions, with the help of hallucinogens like LSD. The power that they had on shaping his creativity was profound. The simple act of drawing whilst psychologically affected by the substance was transformed into a procedure alien from his sober self. The memories of encounters he had with psychedelics continue to shape the release of his creative talent into the forms it adopts and took place in the context of informal Mayahana cosmology; particularly the concept of emptiness.

He was originally a ‘military brat’, following the adventures of his father as he travelled around the world whilst enlisted in the US army. At one point, in the process of turning from single to double digits of age, they resided together in Naples, in the South of Italy. There he was exposed to a great profundity of art: the public statues, the beautiful museums, and the local appreciation for the Renaissance and Baroque legacy that the classical masters had left. His mother took painting classes, and this led him to experiment with oils. The perspectival multiplicities of Caravaggio – who often plays with reflection and the notion of the artist’s eye, such as in Bacchus (c. 1596) – stayed with him. As he immersed himself in Role-Playing Games and the fantasy worlds of video games, the seed for a painterly spirit began to take root within him.

“I started in philosophy with Hume and Locke. I was into poetry, reading writers like Pablo Neruda.”

Cody’s work often draws from philosophical themes and terminology – with titles like “Transcendence” or allusions to Buddhist mythology. When I asked him about the predilection towards Eastern mysticism that often appears in his art, he quickly dismissed an authentic link between canonical practice and scripture and the tropes that bubble up. However, he did not shy away from acknowledging how formative ideas concerning perception and cognition have been from him. Achieving his Master of Fine Arts qualification at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, he absorbed the West coast linkage between mind-altered experiences and the conceptual approaches of non-Abrahamic religions made by the New Age movement in the 1970s.

His journey, however, was an extended one, and it took years for him to move from his original, predominantly Western learning to engage with the schools of thought he does today. He took a course in Theravada Buddhism at Thammasat University in Bangkok in 2007, but he had been accumulating ideas and knowledge since his youth. The kind of person who is always learning and always open to the new, he was keen to stress the spontaneity of his creative spirit. From that first moment at which he began drawing on psychedelics, he has found there to be a healthy dose of unintentionality in what he produces.

“A whole congress of suggestions come in, vying for real estate on my canvas”.

The imagery in his work, which spans living beings, the natural world, and pop culture or video game allusions, undergoes a process of the decision before it enters the visual spaces he creates, but not everything is under his control. It’s entirely unexpected what strikes his eye or what he features as a tool of expression, and at times that can be something as zany and simple as a question-marked box from the Mario franchise.

Cody began transitioning from a central preoccupation with physical art into the digital space only last October but envisions a bright future for it. NFTs allow digital art to retain a scarcity that original physical pieces do but also benefit the artist. In many crypto arrangements, artists are recompensed for secondary sales of their work – thus meaning that they get to capture a portion of the resale market they otherwise would not have access to. This is not only more rewarding for creators but ensures that their oeuvre cannot be a runaway success without some of that success being translated into profitability for the artist.

That being said, this was not the reason he has grown to love it. There is perfect iterability in digital art – the ability to perfectly replicate one object or theme across a work without the physical imperfections of human control coming into play. One can also animate, creating time-dimensional morphologies that bring works, especially psychedelic ones, to life. The unique sheen and partial transparency of the colours and tones used in oil painting will never be alien to Seekins – he did grow up in the physical age, after all – but working with computers has opened up new opportunities for him to create imagery that tests the limits of imagination.

“The process has changed in that I use different toolsets to reach the final product. But the basic intention of mine, to more fully realise the expression – that hasn’t changed.”

The learning which has enabled him to use digital toolsets and create the vastly intricate, hyper-realistic and dreamlike images that he does has predominantly come from self-motivation. Apart from brief skirmishes with Photoshop during his college days, he has grappled with computer generation on the fly.

The immense talent and thoughtfulness of Cody shine through more and more with his newer pieces. The adoption of new forms and new techniques has only allowed the seeds planted within him by his adolescent explorations to flourish. He holds on to a vision of human perception and interaction with the real, or the unreal in the external world which drives him to experiment meticulously with the eye and the gaze. This relationship with perception enmeshes well with Chimera’s commitment to hosting both digital and physical art on the platform. The perception of art is conditioned by the medium through which we experience it, and of course, this medium also affects the creative potential of the artist. But the expansion of digital art has not invalidated the physical. As Cody says, we develop intimate relationships with the physical world through our experiences and daily interactions that constantly afford the digital to be a distinct realm. The great achievement of Seekins’ work is that he is able to navigate this divide and the discrete properties of computer-aided visualization without falling foul of letting the digital just be a stoic representation of his physical art. Perhaps in NFT art, psychedelia has found its home.

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