Meet the artist who Photoshopped his way into internet infamy, using memes and merch to support his paintings

“I just learned that we’re colorblind in our peripheral,” says contemporary artist Seth Fountain, otherwise known by the handle @methfountain. He cups his hands, orbiting them from behind his head to the front of his face, and back again. “You can’t see colors until your brain picks up on them. But when they reverse, you can. It’s like an illusion.”

This concept pervades Fountain’s painting practice: In one piece, red and green spray paints cheat the human eye, splitting a canvas into halves—what look like 3D moon rocks protrude from its surface. On the internet, the graphic design work featured on @methfountain leans into high-camp irreverence. “I see it as, like, there’s the Seth Gallery and the Meth Gift Shop,” the artist says. “I feel like everyone is so serious with clothing and art; everything’s a flex. I just want to make something fun.”

Fountain’s most popular garment is a hat that appropriates the New York Yankees logo, spelling out HOR-NY in its place; in that sense, he doesn’t attempt to take abject credit for the virality of his work. “The way I see it, no matter what, anyone can steal your ideas,” he says. “You cannot let it bother you.” A different hat reads IRO-NY; another, Meth Gala 2023. And the artist’s Burkin bag—yes, that is spelled correctly—took a Canal Street knock-off of Hermès’s iconic Birkin, and painted on a modified Burger King logo.

The Burkin was even featured at Sotheby’s—or so it appeared. “It was Photoshop,” Fountain says, grinning at the idea of having tricked gullible audiences into thinking his work was recognized by such an elite institution. “Everyone was like, You’re gonna get a lawsuit! There was that guy with the NFT Birkin who got sued by Hermès; he was making millions. I’m like, What are they gonna do?”

Fountain’s work hardly violates the law: Copyright infringement cases are only viable should an artist pass copies of existing designs off as their own. His pieces fall under the category of “unique works,” which use established images as source material for a modicum of inspiration.

Fountain’s Gift Shop focuses on today’s highly referential, internet-based humor. The Gallery, on the other hand, is fabricated behind the closed doors of the studio, thriving on the artist’s interiority rather than his online persona. Fountain’s painting practice responds to the culture of immediate gratification, which he sees as detrimental to creativity: “I think art school has a lot to do with it,” he remarks. “Instead of nourishing an artist’s skill, you’re receiving all this praise from all angles. And everyone’s like, It looks cool. You must be cool. You have to keep doing, not just receiving.”

Fountain found himself on the other end of the classroom once, teaching ceramics to third-grade students at the Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, a French immersion school. “It was the coolest thing, because it’s such an old form of creativity. A lot of the kids were off the wall, and I was able to reign them in with the clay.” At the end of the day, the arts are more about impressions—the ones left on your audience, both mentally and materially. “[My art] is what I like to see, ultimately. It’s such a cliché, [but] it’s nice to make people happy.”

Fountain mines the world for reference material with a convivial spirit, seeking brightness in life’s most neutral moments. “Art thrives on certain factors of uncertainty. You can only take a step in one direction, whatever that is.” And with that, his work is a step in the direction of happiness. “That’s [such] a hippy sentiment,” the artist chuckles.