An Artist Unmasked
The menu at SCRATCHbread, a Brooklyn-based bakery, is filled with an assortment of delicious ingredients, ranging from a breakfast bowl with brown rice and carrots, to grits topped with your choice of cranberries, hazelnut butter, or jalapeño sauce to name a few. Upon first glance, the incredibly diverse menu can be a bit overwhelming – the pairing of seemingly unpairable foods serving as the source of bewilderment. Once tried however, it all makes sense. The food has been hailed by many Brooklynites as the best around, which is why, Seb Gorey, along with hundreds more, stop by SCRATCHbread every weekend, eagerly awaiting a bite of nourishment that almost unexpectedly, makes the day that much better. This diverse menu and its welcome results are in many ways reflective of one of its most loyal patrons, for much like his favorite neighborhood bakery, Seb Gorey defies the expected.
Graffiti artists are supposed to be good at graffiti. They aren’t supposed to be incredible sketch artists, typographers, and graphic designers. And they definitely aren’t supposed to be able to do all those things while starting a family. But this is Seb Gorey, and he’s definitely not an ordinary graffiti artist. He’s different, something made evident during our very first encounter.
To begin the process of putting together this piece, Seb Gorey presented us with a sketchbook. Based on prior experience, almost all artist sketchbooks carry some sort of theme throughout – from a distinguishable method of drawing (graffiti, stencil, charcoal, etc.), to a particular instrument (pencil, pen, marker, etc.), to a particular tag that in some way signifies their work. The sketchbook given to us by Seb Gorey contained none of those discernable features. Instead, every page was different. From subway sketches, to colorful graff, to poems dedicated to his daughter – every page flip of the notebook seemed to uncover a different layer of an artist so diverse and skilled, that he seemed to be challenging himself regularly, only to display an effortless mastery of the task at hand.
Our understanding of Seb Gorey, the man, would reveal itself during a visit to his Brooklyn apartment on a chilly Sunday morning. Greeted by his one-year-old daughter Ella and lovely wife Jen, we were immediately welcomed with hot coffee and warm pastries. The melodies of old French disco records echoed in the background as we chatted about life in France, his transition into New York culture, the meaning of being a father and husband, the importance of good food and cooking, the love of riding bicycles, and the unwavering urge to grow as an artist. As we spoke, the connection between art and everyday life became increasingly evident. Gorey spoke of friends in France, Miami and New York, who not only contributed to his pursuit of creating art, but who shared in moments that would never be forgotten. This was the connection. It was about human connection and the creation of artwork that could speak to a multitude of people from different places, backgrounds and cultures. His diverse work not only represented his own curiosity and desire to explore, it created lifelong friendships and memories. It opened doors to opportunities, and it allowed almost everyone lucky enough to come into contact with his work, a chance to connect, because much like SCRATCHbread, there’s something, somewhere, you’re bound to fall in love with.
It wasn’t until a second visit to his Brooklyn residence that a pretty remarkable observation was made – with the exception of a watercolor drawing hung up on a hallway wall, Seb Gorey had no art on display anywhere in his apartment. When asked about the solitary work, he simply stated that it was a favorite of his wife. His work, he explained, was not something he wanted to submerse himself in. As his ideas were frequently changing, he didn’t want to run the risk of becoming bored with something, one of the main reasons he had never been tattooed, he explained. Familiar with photographs of great artists like Picasso and Dali in their homes almost drowning in their work, the clean-cut nature of Gorey’s residence seemed a bit odd at first, but then, once again, it would all begin making sense. As he began to prepare a meal over the stove, regularly playing with his daughter in the process, it became clear – obsession simply was not an option. Between his love for music, food, family, friends, travel, and art, there was simply too much to enjoy. There was too much to explore, learn, and create. He could never allow himself be stuck in one moment in time, for time was always changing, and that in and of itself, was worth celebrating.
The SCRATCHbread bakery has no seating. To order, one must wait in line, outside, hoping that what you crave isn’t sold out once at the counter. In many ways, Seb Gorey’s favorite bakery serves as an incredible metaphor to who he is a person. Much like that bakery, Seb is good, very good, and he knows it. And much like that bakery, there is a refusal to sit and soak in that greatness. Instead, that greatness resides in the direct connection made with the folks who enjoy what is being offered. From a freshly baked muffin to a pencil sketch, the joy of greatness for both parties comes in the human connection that is made – a connection that is genuine and cannot be faked. Seb Gorey is a real artist. What you see is what you get, and what we saw, was a man who will never stop creating, living, and striving to become better.
Always evolving, never complacent, this is story of Seb Gorey – an artist, unmasked.
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