Samantha LevinCurator

Brooklyn, New York, United States
As a curator, I endeavor to explore that curious, indefinable void that is created by the grotesque in visual art. By curating and producing group and solo art exhibitions, I introduce the grotesque to new people, and help those who are familiar with it dig deeper.

Much of the artwork I exhibit is dark and some of it disgusts, but those things alone are not what makes it grotesque. The grotesque describes a dissonant threshold that lies between what’s understood and what’s senseless. It is unresolvable and arresting. I believe the cognitive dissonance that results from viewing such artwork is a large part of what makes it so important. It is a tool that opens the mind to allow for new ideas.

Samantha Recommends

New York-based artist Charlotte Segall is best known for her highly detailed ballpoint pen drawings on translucent vellum. Segall offers a unique vision of what it means to ‘break the figure apart’ by using the act of sheep shearing as a moment of true abstraction. She explains: I’ve run into different reactions from people when I say that ‘sheep shearing feels like a trauma.’ Some are more accustomed to it so to them it seems normal. Many things in life are normal but still traumatic, like birth and death. Shearing is visually fantastic because it has resonances of both birth and death, as the sheep appear to be torn out of or declining into their fluff. Once drawn, the fluff can appear to be many things, sometimes foliage or fire, smoke or flowing water. The ambiguity of a body that is becoming so many other things is the real magic of this work. It brings up the essence of what philosophy and art struggle to represent when they talk about the unpresentable, the sublime, or the limit of representation. What does the unpresentable look like? It is both something and nothing at all.
My interdisciplinary practice ranges across media, from drawing to video to to site- responsive public projects. Regardless of medium, I engage the interplay between humanity and ecology, exploring what it means to be alive in the advent of the Anthropocene. As an undergraduate, I studied environmental science and fell in love with biology field work. I now work in a hybrid format, splitting my time between the lab, the field and the studio.

I am interested in how humans are embedded in ecological systems rather than distinct from them. Working site-responsively, I investigate my local habitat, be it a suburban wasteland, urban waterway or old growth forest. I use the tools at my disposal, from pencil to WIFI, to reconsider long held notions of nature. My videos speculate on the inevitability of ecological processes in anthropogenic settings, while my public projects ask viewers to confront the biological systems functioning under, around and within them. My work seeks to reframe nature as ecology, locating humans in an all encompassing network of melting ice, shifting populations and evolving technology. For me, this is a contemporary notion of the sublime that demands to be acknowledged and explored.
My subject matter is found in observations of my everyday immediate surroundings, and includes anything from the sheets on my bed, my daughter's hair, piles of clothing, tin foil, pots and pans and other domestic matter. I am especially attracted to material that lends itself to abstraction.
I see a painting as a stage where I can create an imaginary place, mood, and drama, through a combination of direct observation and detached formal experiments. I, as the director and set designer, set up objects (actors) in my home, to create, simultaneously, an intimate domestic setting and a distant monumental one.
The fictional places in my paintings are conceived by the mood that my direct observations arouse. For example, in my exhibit "On the Road", I fabricated what I imagined as American landscapes out of my sheets and bedding. Vintage photographs of Yosemete Park and Jack Karouac's book of the same title were visual and literary guides as I worked on these paintings. In my following solo exhibit, "The Near Side of the Moon", impressions of a moonscape or an outer space scenery evolved through painting small pieces of tin foil and pots and pans on a monumental scale. My most recent body of work emerged by looking through the thin curtains of my bedroom onto a plant filled balcony and imagining I am in the Caribbean.
Although there is no intended narrative to my work, I recognize how my paintings reflect my biography. Having grown up as bi-cultural (American and Israeli) and bilingual person, there has always been a marked duality to everything about myself and my paintings. My paintings are both intimate and monumental, figurative and abstract, personal and detached. I am always feeling both at home and a stranger to my surroundings.
I do not have one way of making a painting. Each painting leads to the next one through what I have discovered in the materials and process. I work with a variety of materials including oil paint, acrylic, gouache, and house paint. At times I use stickers, masking tape, or masking fluid as stencils. Recently I made a series of screen prints that have greatly influenced the paintings in at present. As well, I make site specific wall murals as a way for me to have an improvised experience, much like a performer on stage, and expand the format of a two dimensional surface to a specific architectural space.
Studio Joseph Shaeffer is trans-disciplinary studio practice which investigates and engages in the contiguous dialogue between the disciplines of contemporary art, design and the sciences. The ideas generated through this dialogue often emerge in the form of objects rooted in modern conceptual thought.
My sculpture and installation practice is rooted in the craft of weaving—-its technical processes, historical use, and relationship to architecture. My sculptures are sites of repetitious activity and potential futility; their components are balanced uneasily against one another or are hopelessly intertwined. By confounding the slippery connotations of formal and material characteristics, I unravel “stable” preconceptions of wet-dry, heavy-light, strong-fragile.

My large-scale installations and architectural interventions are hand-strung on site in a fashion mimicking the warping of a loom. My thread installations--strung thread by thread over the course of 30-40 hours--underscore the laborious processes of their fabrication. These diaphanous walls of tension control participants’ space and movements. In all my works, barriers—real, self-imposed, and imaginary—are set askew.
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