Alvin Sella, the University of Alabama.

I found out this past week that my all time favorite art/painting teacher is in hospice and about to die of a large (advanced) tumor in his colon. I think he is about 93-94, and is a total yummy old school abstract expressionist.

I was one of his favorites when I was in school (and he was obvious about his favorites). He called me “Curly” because my hair was pretty insane – as Alabama is waaaay humid. He could also be a total dick, and make people cry. He did not coddle his students. He did not condone mediocrity – which is actually what I liked most about him. Most artists are sofa king sensitive and need to get over themselves anyway. There was a rumor that he use to toss off crappy work from the 4th story painting room balcony during critiques. But the Dean put a squash on that after a few years.

I remember the first time he invited me to see his studio – and I was in awe. Rarely do you ever get to see what your professors are like beyond class. It was a real art studio. Messy, and eclectic. Huge cans of paint I knew cost about $80-$100 each – even way back then. Huge canvas. I wondered if I would ever be able to afford paint/materials and canvas like that. I wondered if someone would even buy my work after I graduated. I tried to absorb it all…… He was from New York – and always talked about New York City. In my little culturally starved 20-year-old-mind, he seemed waaaay too sophisticated to be teaching art in the middle of Podunk Alabama. I idolized him. I imagined what New York must be like.

Even thought I have not seen him or maintained any contact with him in about 20 years – I think of him often. I wonder if he would even like what I was working on these days. I rarely seek approval from people, but I think I would have liked to have known what he thought today, even if it was harsh. Maybe he would think my work is crap? Who knows. All I know is that he left an impact on me. I constantly hear him whispering in my ear as I work.


Anyway, he led a full life. I wish him as little pain as possible. Thanks for everything Sella.



Sella passed away 5 days after I found out he was admitted to the hospice facility.



Filed under Art World News, Artist Ramblings

7 responses to “Alvin Sella, the University of Alabama.

  1. You should definitely, DEFINITELY write him a letter. We only have one chance to say thank you and goodbye. He sounds like a brilliant man and I have zero doubt that he will remember you. You were one of his favorites:) I also encourage you to send some pictures of your beautiful work and your accomplishments. Tell him what he and his instruction meant/means to you and your growing art career. Tell him about the profound impact he had on you and continues to. I thought it was touching and beautiful when you said, “I hear him whispering in my ear as I work.” Tell him that. You never know how touched and special this could make a dying man feel…and if you don’t do it now, you may never get the opportunity again…you don’t get second chances. Do it before it is too late (I am speaking from experience). Love your new work btw and congrats for showing in the Columbus museum. One day I will buy one of your pieces:) Best to you from San Francisco. Kimby Faires

    • I apologize if I came across too strongly. Of course, you knew him well and I have no doubt you made the right decision. I am sorry for inflicting my judgements and opinions on your situation…it was near-sighted of me. No matter what…I am sure this man knew true brilliance when he saw it….i.e.: YOU! The bottom line is that I am sure you showed him your appreciation while he was thriving and your teacher. I am sorry for writing you my thoughts. Please forgive me.

      • Casey Matthews

        I don’t think you came across too strongly – you were just posting our opinion – and I was just posting my thoughts as well. You know, someone important to my past died. Someone who helped mold me as an artist and a person. It is a sensitive subject. Thanks for your kind words.

  2. Well Casey, I am super glad that you seem to think that you posses all the answers. Actually, come to think of it,, I am over it….and over you and your artwork….I think you are an un-evolved, ungrateful soul. Good luck honey. I am bored and unenlightenied by… everything you have to offer. Wishing you well…get some therapy before it is too late, seriously.

    • Casey Matthews

      Sorry you feel that way.
      No, I don’t think I have all the answers. Not in the least. If you are going to insult me at least call me self-absorbed, or narcissistic or something.
      “Un-evolved”……. Hummmm, that’s a new one.
      “Ungrateful” ….don’t agree with that one at all, but your thoughts are noted. Everyone perceives things and people differently, so I’m actually enlightened by your point of view. I think I’m always evolving. At least I hope I am.
      Sorry I let you down. It is not my goal in life to to inspire, entertain, or enlighten/teach others…….but i hope you find what you are looking for one day.


  3. MJ

    The University of Alamaba is Podunk? Really? Al stayed and loved it for decades!

    • MJ – You took the word “podunk” out of context. I was also speaking from my 20-year old perspective. I was not referring to the University, but the town/state. Which, yes, at the time, coming from Texas, in the early 1990’s – Tuscaloosa was fairly “limited” – to be polite.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s