Briefly describe the work you do.
I make quiet paintings in a noisy world. My work is an intimate meditation on humble objects and the detritus of studio life. I use my studio as subject matter to create observational paintings that blur the line between representation and abstraction. The depicted paint residue on the walls and floor of my studio serves as a metaphor for the literal and emotional residue we all carry. I am interested in exploring the profound imprint people leave behind on each other and on the world.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I come from a very creative family. My great-grandfather was a painter; my parents are graphic designers. One of my earliest memories is sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and a little pan watercolor set, mixing colors. My family had an enormous impact on the kind of person I am and on the work I make. I would not be where I am right now without their unwavering love and support.
I earned my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and my MFA from Northern Illinois University. I was very fortunate to be able to study with some incredible painters – people like Marion Kryzcka, Betsy Rupprecht, and Frank Trankina – who taught me how to see, as well as what it truly means to be an artist.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is fairly traditional. I spend most of my time standing at my easel. Look, paint, look again, repaint, repeat. For the past few years my studio has been my main subject matter. Since I work predominantly from life, being present in the studio is essential. There is an inherent energy in artist studios; even in a completely empty space, the paint left behind on the walls and floor has such presence. The duality of absence and presence, as described by the ‘empty’ studio space, is the focus of my current artistic research.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Being a self-employed artist means being one’s own self-promoter, salesperson, web designer, crate-builder, photographer, curator, critic… the list goes on. “Painter” is only one of the many hats I find myself wearing. There is a lot more to having a career as an artist than just making work in the studio. Technology has made tackling many of these roles much easier; it has also considerably broadened my community. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow me to network with people all over the world, and in turn I get to interact with other artists I would otherwise never have the chance to meet.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Generally I work best at night. After finishing grad school, I converted my living room into my studio. I love working from home – it gives me tremendous freedom over my schedule, and I have found that living with my work means the “studio time” never really ends. I can contemplate the previous day’s decisions over breakfast, and when sleep is elusive, I can walk the ten feet to my easel and keep working. I don’t have set studio hours; my only rule is to work every day.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I felt like I found my voice as an artist in grad school. Before that I was still learning how to paint, and I spent a lot of time experimenting with different subject matter and concepts. I stopped working from photographs in grad school; I switched to painting directly from life, and that made a tremendous difference. I find that so much information gets lost in photographs; so many subtle shifts of color and value that are visible in real life disappear when translated into pixels. I still make quiet observational paintings – that hasn’t changed. The way I talk about my work has changed, and my concepts have become more focused. I have also become braver and more confident as a painter – five years ago I would never have been comfortable leaving certain marks or even discussing abstraction. Now I appreciate the value of letting the paint be paint. I also learned – and this may be the most important lesson – when a painting is finished for me.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists, or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
The old masters are always on my mind: Giotto, Piero, Velazquez, Vermeer… There is a Corot at the Art Institute of Chicago, a figure painting, that I especially love; it’s a very quiet painting, but the expression on the woman’s face speaks volumes. I also have an affinity with more contemporary painters like Giorgio Morandi, Euan Uglow, and Antonio Lopez Garcia. A few years ago, a friend and I drove to Texas to see the Lucian Freud portrait exhibition… I still dream about those paintings.
I’m a big fan of the modernist poets as well. William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” and Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” are two of my favorites.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
No. I’ve always been an artist. Of the many things that define me, it’s the only label that matters.
I love to cook. My family is very Italian, so cooking has always been a big part of my life. The kitchen and the studio have always been connected in my brain. Both are creative spaces, full of experimentation and failure. For me, the act of painting is a lot like cooking; it is a slow process, full of trial and error, with recipes that more often than not get ignored in favor of trying something new.
Samantha Haring is a painter, artist, and educator. She earned her MFA from Northern Illinois University and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Haring received a scholarship from the Union League Club in Chicago in 2013. Her paintings have been exhibited across the country. Recent group exhibitions include the Evanston Biennial and the Bridgeport Art Competition. Presently she has two concurrent solo exhibitions, one in Chicago and one in St. Louis. Her work will be published in the upcoming Manifest International Painting Annuals 4 and 5. Most recently, Haring’s work was featured as part of The Labletter’s “Monthly Notes” series.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.