This past Friday, we all had the chance to visit the first Salt Lake Gallery Stroll of the year that didn't require a coat, lip balm and a B-12 shot before you entered the cold bitterness. No, this month's Stroll was quite pleasant with a slight breeze, which gave way for some fantastic amounts of walking throughout the downtown area. A good portion of the shows this month were solo exhibitions, some of which were in their own temporary spaces, but it made for a lovely selection of art to choose from. This month we made my way over to Nostalgia Cafe
and covered the works of Samantha deSilva, who was awesome enough to chat with us as we snapped photos of her work.
Gavin: Hey Samantha! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
To start, I want to thank you for asking me to do this interview. As someone who makes 100 percent of my living from art, I am extremely appreciative of platforms such as this one, which help me promote what I do. I am a Brazilian-born professional artist and art educator, currently living and working in Calgary, Alberta, and Salt Lake City. Quitting my corporate office job to become a full-time artist was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What first attracted you to art, and what were your early influences?
I am a fourth-generation artist. I was inspired at an early age by my copiously artistic family. My grandmother was a portrait artist, my aunt an accomplished jewelry designer, and my mother, originally a water-colorist; [they] all influenced me to experiment with a variety of mediums. But it wasn’t until I found acrylics and abstraction that I discovered my life’s true passion.
What were some of your earlier works like as you started creating pieces?
Over the years, my work has become more complex. Some of my paintings have up to 16 layers to them. In contrast, my earlier works were much more straightforward. Fewer layers, and colors straight from the tube. That said, after nearly 10 years of doing this full-time, I find myself going full circle. Recently, I have felt a strong desire to paint the way I used to in those early days. The paintings I did for my exhibition at Nostalgia Café represent the bridge between those two opposites.
I read you skipped college and went in a different career direction. What made you choose that path?
In one word? Fear. Upon graduating high school, art school was an option, but I was extremely afraid of becoming a cliché. I was afraid to devote my time, money and energy into an education that in the end, would probably mean I would have to do something completely different. We all know that “artists are poor and starving,” right? Wrong!
When did you start feeling that itch to create again, and what was the catalyst that made you jump into being a professional artist?
I spent 10 years living the life I thought I was “supposed” to be living. When my marriage came to an end, I was blindsided. It took losing everything I had worked really hard for, and everything I thought was important, to finally be able to ask myself, “Now that you’ve lived your life the way other people thought you should, what do you really want to do?” The resounding answer was, “I want to be an artist!” I haven’t looked back since.
What drew you toward abstract painting as your medium?
Freedom. The freedom to paint outside the lines, to experiment, and to change my mind. The freedom to not have to make my work look like “something.” I also enjoy the fact that with abstraction, the viewer becomes an active participant in the creative process. They are invited to draw their own conclusions, rather than being told what they are looking at.
What was it like for you starting out and getting your work into group shows and solo exhibitions?
Scary. It’s one thing to paint, but it’s an entirely different thing to attach a price tag to your work, and put it out there for public consumption and judgment. It’s so funny to me to think how far I have come! I spent my first art show chain-smoking and hiding behind the building. When someone asked me to buy one of my paintings, my answer was, “Really?” I was floored that something that came so naturally to me could actually make me
What's the process like for you in creating a new piece, from concept to final design?
My work is never pre-conceived. This means that rather than having an image in my mind of what the final painting will look like, I allow the process to evolve into ideas. It’s a much freer, more fun way to paint. It takes the pressure off. Also, wherever I am in the world, whether it’s Canada, Utah, Montana, New York or Paris, I enjoy infusing my surroundings into my work. The paintings I made here in Utah, all have local materials incorporated into them including red earth, sand, sawdust, plaster, and various newspapers from Salt Lake City (including City Weekly
Do you find yourself playing with your creations a lot, or do you kind of have an idea of what you want to make?
I might have an idea of what the painting will feel like, but I never have an idea of what the painting will look like. That’s not fun for me. I prefer to experiment, play and allow the work to take a life of its own.
How has it been for you over the past eight years building a name for yourself, both here in Utah as well as in Canada?
That’s a loaded question! In fact, I teach artists art marketing workshops in an effort to share everything I’ve learned on my journey as a professional artist. Briefly, when I decided that I wanted to make the switch from my corporate desk job to becoming a full-time artist, I hit the ground running. I painted obsessively, often passing out on my studio floor due to exhaustion. In less than three years, I had participated in over 100 group and solo exhibitions. Typically, an artist will participate in one, maybe two shows per year. I believe that my ambitious approach, is a big part of how much I’ve managed to accomplish in such a relatively short amount of time.
Tell us about the work you have on display for this month's Stroll.
I can't deny that yoga teacher training here in Salt Lake City is having an impact on my art. I find myself reaching for brighter colors, a blender, and exploring themes that were not an option for me in the past. In preparation for my March exhibition at Nostalgia Cafe, I have decided to draw upon the colors of the chakra system for inspiration: Red (Root Chakra), Orange (Sacral Chakra), Yellow (Solar Plexus Chakra), Green (Heart Chakra), Blue (Throat Chakra), Indigo (Brow Chakra) and Violet (Crown Chakra).
What has it been like working with Nostalgia in displaying your work?
Nostalgia has been extremely supportive of my work from the beginning. I think that when a local business decides to showcase local artists, it says a lot about who they are. Nostalgia has a strong sense of community, and they have an understanding that displaying local art is a win-win for both parties involved.
What's your take on the current art scene here in Utah?
To be honest, I feel like I have experienced extreme opposites. On one hand, I see an abundance of mountain scapes and flowers in pots, but I’ve also seen paintings of naked bodies hung from hooks. The dichotomy is fascinating! That said, having arrived here in Utah less than a year ago, I am still getting to know the local art scene. I am absolutely in love with both the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts. I have visited both places several times already.
Who are some local artists you've enjoyed seeing and encourage others to check out?
I am still getting my bearings, but because of my involvement with stores like Arte Haus Collectif and Dara Modern, I have come across incredible local talent. Both stores do a fantastic job in blending furniture and home décor with accessories, jewelry and beauty products all made by local artists.
What advice do you have for those who would like to become an artist without any education background?
Eight years ago, I walked out of my corporate office job with only $700 in my bank account. I had no business plan, no art degree or connections. I didn't even have a car or a home of my own. I hadn’t painted in 10 years. Despite all of that, it was still the best decision I ever made. Sometimes our dreams don't make any sense. That doesn't mean they aren't right.
What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Painting outdoors, dedicating myself to my yoga teacher training and exploring the beautiful state of Utah.