New York native John Sebastian could be called the art world’s jack-of-all-trades. A lifelong artist, Sebastian quit his job nearly 15 years ago to start The New York Optimist, a weekly publication focused on art, lifestyle and travel. There, Sebastian interviewed countless artists and creatives.

He has also branched out by representing a small group of artists he promotes through The New York Optimist’s Artnet gallery page. Throughout this time, Sebastian has maintained his own practice, most recently featuring a group of works in the “Confluo” exhibition at the Artisans Art Center at the Dahmen Barn in Washington.

Recently, we caught up with Sebastian to talk about his publishing inspirations and what he looks for in the artists he supports.

Walter Paul Bebirian, 8-25-2008aabc. Courtesy of The Optimist of New York.

When and why did you found The New York Optimist? How would you define it? On the one hand, it is a publication, but it has also become a means of supporting and representing artists through its Artnet Gallery page.
I started The New York Optimist after years of working in the corporate world in New York while exhibiting my art in galleries in Soho and Chelsea, as well as clubs, restaurants and other venues all over Manhattan.

Having grown weary of the politics and bureaucracy involved in these two businesses, I decided to gather my contacts from all businesses and start my own business, a lifestyle project that would include my experience as a writer, businessman and artist, and to create a magazine that would include all of these categories, with art as the focus. It worked!

How do you choose the artists with whom you would like to speak and show works? What was your first introduction to the art world?
I choose the artists according to my instinct and my experience. My first question regarding the artists I work with is: “Are they real artists? By that I mean, will they still be artists, and is the art they make authentic? I was born into a family steeped in art. From an early age, I knew this would be the direction for the rest of my life.

Your Artnet Gallery page features works by seven different artists working in different genres. Can you tell me about the artists you work with?

I work with artists from all over the world in almost all walks of life and all disciplines. Artist Walter Paul Bebirian explores how art can affect the shape and direction of a person’s life. He is a photographer who is now also a prolific digital artist. Painter Linda Hyatt Cancel has been an artist since childhood. All of these artists, including myself, will make art no matter what. It’s a way of life.

Linda Hyatt Cancel, A view from the bridge.  Courtesy of The Optimist of New York.

Linda Hyatt Cancel, A view from the bridge. Courtesy of The Optimist of New York.

Tell me about your own art. What are your main inspirations and influences?
I am influenced by the things I see and the people I meet: music, cinema, theatre, writing and literature in general. Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and modern artists of our time. Of course, the Renaissance had a great influence on me. The artists and musicians of the time made a deep impression on me.

Your works were recently exhibited in the “Confluo” exhibition at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn in Washington State. Can you tell me about the show?

I was invited by my fiancée, Linda Hyatt Cancel, to participate as an exhibiting artist as well as Julie Heitstuman Hartwig, the Director of Artisans at The Dahmen Barn. Last October I was also invited to do a solo show at the Grange and had great success, selling several paintings in this new world of Washington. This new adventure is exhilarating and life changing.

Do you have something coming up that you would like to highlight? Other exhibitions of your works or the works of your artists?

There are a number of upcoming shows for all artists who are still exhibiting all over the world. I would ask anyone reading this to contact me as the work I represent is not only exciting, but inspiring and very valuable.

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