Artist Profile

Samantha Goldstein is a multimedia artist and recent graduate of Swarthmore College. She exhibited her paper and porcelain sculpture in “Night Gallery,” which opened April 17th, 2014, at the List Gallery as part of the annual Senior Thesis Exhibition Series. In her work, Goldstein explores how simple objects such as newspaper and tissues can be repurposed in different contexts. Her paper sculptures use illumination to create a gentle sense of otherworldliness and possibility, and this effect seems to harness the magic of night.  She also works in photography and illustration.

Paper Moon #1: The Phantom Tollbooth. 2014.

Artist Interview

I On the Arts: How did you get started making art?  What is your background and training?

Samantha Goldstein: I have always been interested in art and would spend hours drawing from magazines or anywhere I could find figures. I did not have much formal training until I came to Swarthmore.  Before Swarthmore I did not have any space that was for making art, so I would make small works, things that I could do with few supplies and little mess.  Since then, I've gotten a bit more space and tons more mess. 

IOtA: What subjects most inspire you in your practice?

SG: I'm inspired by everyday objects: paper, cloth, tissues, and the way an object's meaning can be completely changed in a different context.  For instance, with paper, most of the time we look at it either trying to put something on it or take something away from it, but in the work I'm making I want people to look through it, and to notice the inherent properties of paper that are often missed in day-to-day life.  Along with the materials themselves, I'm inspired by books from my childhood, the feeling of reading late at night and trying not to wake up others in the house with rustling pages or light spilling from my room.  That feeling of being small and being someone else for a few hours at night was really formative for me.  Firstly, it's a secret, and no one knows that you're awake, living dangerously, in books.  Secondly, it is an opportunity to take risks you would not take in daylight.  Daylight is embarrassing; you can see all your blemishes in the day.  Those things are softened at night and things just feel possible.
Circle Pots, 2013.

IOtA: What artists or teachers have been most influential to you?

SG: I would say my biggest influences are Tara Donovan, Yayoi Kusama, and recently, Jee Young Lee, along with Jun Kaneko, Kiki Smith, and Louise Bourgeois.  I am interested in work that deals with repetition, light, and pattern.  Donovan and Kusama use all of those for really different ends but evoke an ethereal quality and transform a space.  They invite you into a place that is nothing like the ones you know, but reminds you of a place you saw in your head or somewhere you never thought was possible. 

IOtA: How has the Swarthmore art community been for your development?

SG: The Swarthmore art community is wonderful. It's great to be surrounded by so many talented people and I find that my work is involved in multiple disciplines. Access to so many students and professors who work in different mediums has been a great tool.   

IOtA: What has been your proudest moment as an artist?

SG: My proudest moment was definitely my show and seeing all of my work as a cogent body.  This allowed every piece that was in conversation (in my own head) to visually communicate with one another.  I could finally physicalize the idea.  I felt honored to share something so important to me. It was especially wonderful to hear people discuss the work – there were many interesting ideas that were not necessarily intentional but many verbalized directly the points I was most interested in getting across.  It was in hearing those snippets that I felt truly successful. 

Moon Cycle Series in the List Gallery, 2014.

IOtA: What has been your most challenging or frustrating moment as an artist?

SG: There is not really one moment of frustration I can think of but it boils down to a pretty substantial amount of time trying to realize objects I could see so perfectly in my head.  I had this terrain mapped out in my mind and I was struggling to make that a reality.  During that time, it was particularly difficult to describe to anyone what I was trying to achieve; I met with a lot of confused looks.   

IOtA: What media do you use?  How did you pick the media you use now?

SG: I use paper, porcelain, and,  recently, felt. I'll use anything I can see through. I like forgotten materials. I like materials that change depending on their context.  I think of my works as experiments. And some of the experiments definitely fail.  But I try to discover something about a material with each piece.  I am a big process-based worker. If I'm not finding something new about a material, it is not interesting.  

IOtA: You study both art and computer science.  How does that relationship pan out for you?

SG: My double major has sometimes felt like an albatross: perhaps I was making things harder for myself by trying to do two things that in curriculum are disparate, though in reality can be strongly linked.  No one lives in a vacuum and my computer science major inevitably impacted my art.  Specifically, I did research in virtual reality this summer at USC and I worked to create a virtual world that users could interact with and walk around.  Essentially that was my objective with Night Gallery as well. I wanted to bring viewers to a place that I inhabit, and let them walk around and interact with it. 
Still from "Lady of Shalott", reimagined by the artist, 2013.

IOtA: What do you hope people who see your work take away from it?

SG: If someone leaves my show and thinks twice picking up a newspaper, I'll be proud. I want to share my discoveries about material.  Mostly, though, I want people to feel that "other-place-ness" that my favorite artists evoke. If I am successful, people will know me better, know what makes me feel calm and safe, and even if those specific things that interest me are not interesting to others I hope the work feels honest.