The Seals of the Philosophers originally appeared in the Opus medico-chymicum of Johann Daniel Mylius, a 3000 page alchemical text published in 1618. The seals were 160 copper plate engravings commemorating real and imaginary alchemists. Their hermetic symbolism and Latin mottoes served both didactic and mnemonic functions for practitioners of the art.
For over a decade, the seals have provided Douglas MacWithey with a container for his own studio practice. His examinations of their content and permutations on their structure have produced drawings, collages and sculpture that are part of an ongoing artistic project in which each decision generates new directions for visual realization.
This current project includes works on paper in gouache and collage and sculpture from the past five years. To accompany the work, curator Charles Dee Mitchell provides a brief Introduction, and short Glossary of Terms, and Suggestions for Further Reading.
My friend the artist Doug MacWithey owned a huge, historic, three-story former Odd Fellows hall in Corsicana, Texas. Though the scale of his work was usually rather small, he was inspired by these immense old spaces . . . I think such spaces meant to him kind of endlessness. Historical and physical. Whatever concentrated, pared-away-to-almost-nothing bit of art he did, he wanted it to be endless. As if nothingness and endlessness depended on each other. Even some isolated scribble would, in his heart, belong to an endless series endlessly elucidating endless variations on its faint, essential self. And when, as toward the end of his life, a single thought took hold, he'd go with it, he'd crank it out (most times with a little xerographic help) with no intention of ever shutting down until some practicality, like death of course, intruded.
-Excerpt from SHAME AND WONDER, essays by David Searcy
Charles Dee Mitchell is an independent curator and freelance writer on the arts for such publications as the Dallas Observer, the Dallas Morning News, Art in America, Artforum, and Art and Culture.