Small medium for inspiration

Anchorage artist turns to 'artist trading cards' when stuck on bigger projects

Posted: Thursday, April 13, 2006

On days when Anchorage artist Wanda Seamster has trouble getting started on one of her larger projects, she has a smaller medium she can turn to for quick inspiration.

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Her "artist trading cards" - baseball-card-sized 212 by 312 inch cards - are a quick diversion that use all sorts of media: assemblage, collage, photography, manipulated laser prints, ink, pencil, prismacolor, watercolor, acrylic, etc.

"They're great for artists in the fact that you can try out an idea without too much time or material invested," Seamster said. "I think every artist in the world has been at the point where a drawing is not quite working. After a while they have so much time invested that they can't call it quits. The investment here is no more than a few hours, and sometimes it's as little as 10 to 20 minutes."

Seamster has made more than 1,700 artist cards since starting with the format in 2001. She's exhibiting 420 in "Richochet," her new solo exhibition at the Alaska State Museum. The show opened Friday, April 7, and runs through May 6.

"The first ones I did I just wanted to see if I could think that small," Seamster said. "Then I realized I use a lot of different media, and this was a good way to tie them together. It's amazing what you consider art material once you do art this size. When I walk down the street, instead of looking up, I'm looking down at the trash on the street."

Zurich artist M. Vanci Stirnemann held the first artist trading card exhibition in 1996 in Switzerland, according to Seamster's research. He and another Swiss artist, Cat Schick, began promoting the movement through their Web site, By 1997, artist trading cards had spread to Canada, Seamster said.

"I'm struck by the variety," museum curator of exhibitions Mark Daughhetee said. "There's almost 400 cards on the wall right now, and although I do see some themes that are repeated, they seem fresh. It is a medium that is absolutely open to anything around you. Since she's come here and started hanging these things on the wall, I find it inspiring. It's freeing in many ways."

Seamster has had solo artist trading card shows at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage and galleries in Homer. She's preparing for a December show in Anchorage of oil paintings on unconventional surfaces.

She creates about 30 cards a month and keeps 10 to 15 for her permanent collection. The rest go into her stash box for trades with other artists. Trading has become quite popular among artists in Fairbanks and Homer.

"One of the things that the art cards has really solved is it's quenched my appetite for collage," Seamster said. "I'll probably keep making them. Maybe when I'm 90, they'll open some closet and find 5,000 of these things."

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