Emily Seltzer stands next to her painting (upper left) in the exhibit.

The famous artist Salvador Dali once said, “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” Bloomingdale girls basketball player Emily Seltzer aptly described winning the Award of Merit in this year’s Dali Student Surrealist Art Exhibition for her painting, Crustacean Infestation, as surreal.

The painting, which was inspired by a nightmare Seltzer had when she was a child, in which she was chased in the Grand Canyon by giant lobsters and crabs, was the perfect subject matter for this year’s Dali art competition theme of ‘Delusions, Desires and Delicacies.’ Seltzer, now looking back at the dream, views it as humorous, but at the time she had the dream, she was frightened by it.

“It’s one of those dreams that you never forget,” said Seltzer. “I just thought that it would be a good idea to conquer my fear in that way and make a joke of it, because you can do that with your fears sometimes and it makes it more palatable and more interesting.”

The junior basketball player, who has been painting for as long as she can remember, stepped up her craft about five years ago. Her mom gives her paint and canvases as a birthday present every year, and she is now getting commissioned for some of her work. She likes to paint as an outlet to express herself and release energy because she views herself as a person that isn’t particularly vocal. Seltzer’s teacher, Diana Speedy, noticed her gift and encouraged her to enter the contest.

Seltzer, who said that it was hard to get started with the creative process, scrapped her original painting that she wasn’t happy with and used oil paint instead of acrylic to make it more airy and realistic. Seltzer’s friend told her that the dream was the perfect subject matter for the painting. She then trusted the process, working on the painting every day after school for about three weeks, for a total of 20-30 hours.

The team captain found out that she won the award when her teacher congratulated her. Crustacean Infestation was displayed in the student section of the Dali Museum for about a month. Seltzer received free tickets to the museum and took her family and friends to check out her artwork. The painting was judged by museum curators and art critics who awarded her with the honor.

“This is such a big, huge moment for me,” said Seltzer. “I really will never forget this—it is incredible and I’m so excited. Just getting picked makes me feel so validated—it is so real, it’s honestly surreal.”

Seltzer will receive a certificate for winning the Award of Merit, along with her plaque that was displayed with the painting. She will eventually get back her work, and she already has a special place on the wall in her room to hang it. She is very proud of the level of detail and dedication that it took to paint it.

“When you paint organic material, it’s really easy to get obsessed in trying to make it perfect, but that’s not life. Life isn’t perfect, and as an artist, you want to make it symmetrical and perfect, but you can’t because imperfection is what makes it organic and beautiful.”

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.