We had the good fortune of connecting with Gwen Samuels and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gwen, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
At the beginning of the lockdown in March I did not realize how important balance in my life would become. I had experienced great change before- I had raised a family, got divorced, moved from the east coast to the west coast to start a new life. This was different- my daily life was instantly restructured without any choices. Intuitively, I began making face masks (got a pattern on the internet) for my family and close friends to connect and keep them safe. It was only after I realized my grandkids could not see me smiling at them that my masks became an art form. I made embroidered smiles to sew on the masks and ultimately made a signature dress from all the smiles called: Lip Service. At the same time I was making “smiling face masks” I felt an urgency to begin what later became my “Safety of Circle” series. I felt a sense of security cutting circles from my existing reformatted imagery sheets and arranging them in repeat patterns. Each piece in the series was slightly different but all shared the comforting shape of the circle. Having my art to help me understand my emotional needs to connect by making masks and to metaphorically connect by creating rows of imagery gave my life new structure. With that framework in place- I found my balance for now- making art, experiencing nature with gardening and learning new technology thru Photoshop and connecting on FaceTime and Zoom.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am both inspired and excited that I have found a way to combine my skills using technology and the handmade to create art. I think breaking it down- Patterns are what inspires me. Our brains crave symmetry- that element of wholeness that makes sense of the world. My work is made up many photographs of mostly architectural elements all around me, reformatted in repeat patterns hand-stitched. Over the years there have many opportunities that have led to where I am today. I have maintained a studio to meet other artists and network. I have donated work and joined art organizations to get exposure. I maintain a website that is current and try to be active on Instagram. I always try to raise the bar with some new experience that might further my career and my exposure. What I am discovering at this time in my life- is that thru exposure, thru networking and most importantly doing the artwork to be ready, I am getting the opportunities and recognition. I am reaching out to those that can move me to the next level. And I am finding they are reaching out to me as well. My best advice- Do the Art. No one else can do that for you. The rest will come.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is an interesting question because this past year has changed everything. Just the other day I was thinking about all places in the city that I have not visited all year and what they are like now. Before COVID I would have taken my visitor to some of the places I enjoy and are unique to Los Angeles. One of those itineraries might be- Lunch on Sawtelle in one of the interesting Asian restaurants like Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles and then on to The Getty to spend time in the gardens and galleries. Or A nice walk in the Venice Canals and then lunch and shopping on Abbott Kinney. But now I am not sure how a visit from a friend would be- We would probably stay local to my home and take walks on the beach in Venice or a short ride to Malibu to walk at the beach and then get take out at Johns Garden and sit in the garden. The outdoors would be a definite part of my plan. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To support and help me maintain my balance physically and emotionally during this year, I have to acknowledge my kids and their families living close by. We were able to see each other with proper protocol in our yards. I also want to Shoutout to a small group of friends- Judith, Margie, my life coach Anne and especially my art buddy Karen Sikie. Karen was there to chat, helped me navigate Photoshop and Zoom as well as maintain our art practice. Looking back each one of the people I mentioned made such a difference in my over all well being.
all images taken by the artist