J. Seth Van Der Eems lives in the hills around Wapato Lake in Oregon. As an interdisciplinary studio artist, his practice centers on conversations about ritual and placemaking through the expanded field of drawing. 

Seth is an Assistant Professor of Art and Design at George Fox University where he specializes in foundations, drawing, and community engagement. He completed the MFA at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Seth has completed international research fellowships and exhibited work across the country.



(nom.) n. light

A foundational element of material experience (esp. visual). By which - and through which - we construct our perception of reality.


(aac.) n. footprint, trace, or instant

(1) The mark of human action on material, both the immediate creation and the rippling of the marking through time.
(2) Paradoxically unique and unifying trace of communal existence. The essential, yet absurd action in the face of material reality and the inadequate action in the face of divine presence.


(abl.) n. philosophic speculation

(1) Dialogue on the subject(s) of marks experienced.
(2) Reciprocal cultivation of communal experience and celebration of individual experience.

Keeping the human mark in focus, my work investigates the ways places and people have been overwritten, cultivated, and preserved.

So that we may know our stories richly.
..................... give to each other charitably.
..................... measure our impact tangibly.

As a recognition of the shifting nature of this practice, the work emphasises its own frailty and limitations through materials and process -- often creating space for the viewer’s mark and perspective to become the subject. The consistent use of sensitive, mutable surfaces like unprotected paper, wax, and light across fabric and plastic are embraced embodiments and records of the process. I choose my materials for their context, ecological impact, and accessibility -- often utilizing and contrasting the hyper-local with globally-distributed materials and the finely crafted with the impulsive and natural. In addition to works on paper and prints, the studio work includes interactive sculpture, installation, site specific projects, and collaboration with local communities.