Gwenn Liberty Seemel is named after the Liberty Bell, a cracked ding-dong with a venerable history. Born in Saudi Arabia in 1981, Gwenn has lived most of her life in France and the US. In Brittany, she attended the same grammar school her mother did growing up, and she also learned to play a mean game of boule bretonne for an eight year old.
Eventually, her family settled in the US, and, these past few years, she has stayed on. In 2003, she graduated from Willamette University summa cum laude and immediately launched her career in Portland, Oregon. She currently lives and works on Long Beach Island in New Jersey.
For over a decade, Gwenn has made her living mostly by painting and drawing, but also by selling art books and earning grant money. Her work focuses on questions of identity and belonging, often expressed through portraiture. She writes and creates videos in English and in French for her blog about her work, portraiture, the business of art, feminism, and her struggle with endometriosis—a disease which has no cure and which affects the reproductive organs of millions of women.
In 2012, she created an entire series of paintings on that last topic. Crime Against Nature depicts animal species that all have one thing in common: their behaviors deviate from traditional notions of gender. They’re single moms or stay-at-home dads, aggressive females and colorful males, animals that struggle with infertility as well as homosexual and transgendered species. The series laments the misinformation we’ve been fed about what’s natural and what’s not, but it’s also a celebration of the true diversity of behaviors and expressions. Crime Against Nature is presented as a collection of paintings and as a book.
Gwenn’s art has been written about by the prominent portraiture scholar Dr. Richard Brilliant and featured on Scientific American, BoingBoing, and Hyperallergic among other prominent places on the Interwebs. Known for her radical free culture advocacy, Gwenn speaks regularly about how copyright damages creativity and interrupts artists’ ability to make a living with their art, most recently at TEDxGeneva and at the Rencontres Mondiales du Logiciel Libre.