Saturday, October 10, 2009

SAMANTHA CORNWELL: The Curveball


Samantha Cornwell is an artist living in LA. She graduated from Brown University in Providence, lived in Brooklyn for a time and recently relocated to the West Coast. A focus on women's studies, storytelling and performativity manifests in her work, more of which can be found at http://cargocollective.com/samanthacornwellworks#46083. She doesn't have a favorite color at the moment, but she's waaaay into bloodhounds.

What do you do?
I do a lot of video installation art. I've had a lot of opportunities lately to show my work, which is a great way to get motivated.

How long have you done these things?
I've been working in video for about four years now. It started in college when I took a summer class with a professor named Marlene Malik. When I was younger I was really into theater, but I got to a point where I felt like I was not getting what i needed from it. This made the discovery of my passion for video even more exciting.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
I do my art work because I have to in order to communicate a certain side of myself that I can't effectively express with words and body language alone. When I have an obsession, the best way for me to organize my thoughts is through doing a piece about it.

When I'm making a piece I feel insane, but in a way that is very productive and rewarding.



Still from The Caribbean Debutante's Index

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Its hard to pick just one. I've known I wanted to be an artist since I was little. I was very productive in college, but after I graduated and moved back home with my parents I was in a little bit of a creative rut for awhile. The stress of the job market certainly didn't help either.

A very recent moment occured surrounding my move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. This was four or five months ago. I was working a job I hated at a recreation center in Queens, and got a job offer to work on a certain TV show in Los Angeles. I was looking for a way out of my job, so I jumped on the opportunity. Around the same time, a friend of mine named Alice Shay was curating a show at a place in Brooklyn called The Division of Human Works. The show was called "Shape Shifting: Reinventing Heritage". Alice requested that I do a piece for the show. At first I considered turning it down, because at this point I had about two months until I was due to move to Los Angeles, and I knew that I had a lot of stress ahead of me. However, I suddenly had this realization that I didn't have any substantial creative work to show for the year and a half that I had been living in New York after graduating from Brown. Sure, I had started many projects, but hadn't finished anything. It became clear to me that it was very important for me to do some good work that I could be proud of if I wanted to have any hope of continuing on as an artist. I was at risk of losing it for good.

I'd been meaning to do a piece about my maternal grandmother for awhile, but had not seen one through to completion. My grandmother died when I was seventeen. We had been quite close when I was a little girl, but as I developed into a selfish teen that changed. Her death really threw me a curve ball, and to be honest, I've never really gotten over the loss. Alice's show seemed like a great opportunity to do a piece around her, especially since it involved the theme of heritage.

For the next month and change I worked my ass off on the piece, dividing my time between filming, editing, typing, building, and collecting objects that I felt would evoke my grandmother's spirit and persona. In the end I had a piece that I was really excited about, and it involved food too! The show opened on March 20th of this year. At the opening a lot of people saw my piece and responded really well to it. The whole experience really drove home how important it was for me to be prolific, and make pieces that really engaged spectators. 10 days later I moved to Los Angeles.

Since I've been in LA, my motivation has grown stronger. I currently have an installation up in a show called City Of Angles, which is at the At&t center. The change of scenery coupled with the spark set off by the show in March has really done wonders for my mind and my drive. Maybe one day I won't want to make videos, but I can't even fathom it.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
In the past I was so focused on gainful employment, that I didn't really leave enough room for art work in my life. These days I really don't let those stresses effect me as much. My jobs here in LA tend to be project to project, so in between things I take time to work on my own art work, and other projects that are of interest to me. Its not as stable as having a 9-5 job in an office that I go to 5 days a week, every week, but it allows me to do what I want to be doing, and keeps things interesting.

How has your work affected your life in return?
It fulfills me, and gives me opportunities to meet really interesting people that I may not have met otherwise.

What does David Lee Roth mean to you?
Haha. I really like his cover of California Girls. Almost more than the original. I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan, but I'm glad to live in a world that he exists in. Maybe some day I'll do a piece about him.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Yeah. Do you think David Lee Roth has aged gracefully?

Yes.

Samantha can be seen in action on her website and here:
http://thehumanpyramid.blogspot.com/2007/02/stairwell-gallery-21006.html

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