Max Seiler dropping of his Award-winning sculpture, Traverse, for the ART.WRITE.NOW National Exhibition.

Who knew that a sculpture made of suitcases could merit a Gold Medal? Eighteen-year-old Max Seiler packed his bags into a 2012 Award-winning sculpture, Traverse. Now a senior at Bethlehem Central Senior High School in Delmar, NY, Max decided to enter his work again this year after winning five regional awards in 2011 from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. We had the opportunity to chat with him when he visited the Alliance to hand-deliver Traverse for the ART.WRITE.NOW National Exhibition. You can see it too, along with other Gold Award-winning work, at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design from June 1–16.

What is the concept of your Scholastic Award-winning piece Traverse? I like to take materials that aren’t necessarily perceived as art-worthy and try to make something beautiful out of them. I tend to give trash and other discarded materials (old wires, shower curtains, blinds, etc.) another home. For Traverse, I got suitcases from the Salvation Army. Last year, I won a regional award for Jetsam, which was made from milk bottle tops, coffee tin tops, and other plastic tops used on similar containers. We get milk delivered to our home, so we had an abundance of bottle tops and caps that needed to be trashed.

How did you create your piece? The suitcases are put together with two bolts at the bottom two corners so that when I push the two ends the suitcases will splay out into an arch.

Max Seiler's 2012 Gold Medal-winning sculpture Traverse.

Max Seiler's 2011 regional award-winning work Jetsam.

When did you first become interested in sculpture? I participated in a summer program at the School of Visual Arts for sculpture during the summer before my junior year. I learned the fundamentals of casting and welding, and produced three pieces in three weeks. Through the program, I realized how much I enjoyed working with my hands – moving materials around, and constantly changing and adding to a physical piece. I now prefer to work on a 3D level rather than on a 2D level.

Do you have a teacher or mentor who supports you? My mom, who is a visual artist and college art professor, has been my greatest influence. I started doing nude figure drawings at the age of four when she brought me to her classes, and I’ve been going to museums and galleries since I was a baby!

Do you have any secret fun facts or hidden talents that you’d like to share with us? I’ve been running track for five years and I’m kind of a sports statistics nerd. I wake up 30 minutes before school everyday to read the sports section of the newspaper.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists like yourself? Go to all the museums, galleries, and art events that you can. Even if you are not interested in the work being exhibited, the more art you view, the greater understanding you will have. Eventually, you might find something that will inspire your work. Play around with different materials and keep trying new things. Even a mistake can help you reach a breakthrough. Oh, and watch PBS’s Art:21 – Art in the 21st Century television series! It’s really good.

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