We recently sat down with New York-based artist Sam Wolfe Connelly to ask him some interview questions as the artist puts the finishing touches on his latest works. Learn more about Sam below, and be sure to stay tuned for his upcoming three person show alongside Nimit Malavia and Karla Ortiz this August.
When did you first start getting serious about making art for a living?
I’ve always loved drawing, but I think it was in high school that I realized that going to a college for the arts was an option and that I had really no other passion. It seemed like an obvious choice I guess, and then art just kind of took over. Art has always been the perfect blend of passion for the craft as well as getting the maximum enjoyment of doing something with expression for a living.
What is the creative community in New York like for you?
I really don’t go out much anymore to see openings or socialize with the art community. When I first moved here I tried my best to spend a lot of my time around people with the same passions, but more and more I find myself getting more inspiration for my art on my own. I moved to Astoria, Queens mainly because it wasn’t as saturated with that type of culture that you might find in places like Brooklyn. For me, when I leave my studio, the last thing I generally want to think about or discuss is art or hear what other people are working on. I definitely sound like a hermit here, but I guess it’s just that I take my work personally.
What is your favorite project to date? What makes it important to you?
I can’t really pinpoint one project, but I’d have to say that all my solo shows and independent gallery work has been the most meaningful to me. More and more that’s what I’ve been trying to keep at the forefront of where I spend my time because I’m able to express my own feelings on the current things in my life. I love being able to use a collection of works to tell a story in my own chicken scratch.
Where do the stories and feelings you aim to create within your work come from?
My own experiences and feelings tend to be where my work stems from. It’s typically the shallow points in my life that seem to leave the biggest marks, but I also like to draw a lot from memories as a kid. My childhood will always be with me as an album of stories to draw from whenever my current life seems to be nothing but work and paying rent.
Where does the imagery in your art come from? How do you decide what goes into a piece you’re making?
Most of the environments I create within my work have their roots in places I’ve been to. I tend to take a lot of photo reference of places that speak to me in some way and then alter it to create a mood for the viewer to experience. A lot of my models are people I’ve known as well, which really helps me keep my work personal. Generally the characters and objects in my drawings and paintings are the smaller pieces that make up the whole story within a work. It’s kind of like a dollhouse in that way, where I can set up objects in a scene to let someone else’s imagination create a drama.
What is the most difficult aspect of creating your artwork?
The days when I have seemingly no motivation or feel generally bad about everything that I make. Those bouts with my thoughts come and go pretty often, so I usually just remind myself that it’s only temporary. It helps to take a trip somewhere new when I’m feeling that way because it really kickstarts my creative brain again. The worst is when it happens and there’s a deadline to hit, because that’s when some of the worst work gets made.
You still work commercially while making work for galleries, how do you balance the two?
I find myself doing less and less commercial work, the main reason being it is very hard to balance the two, especially when your heart is more in one than the other. Typically now I only take on commercial stuff I’m really passionate about, which is a huge blessing that I thought would never happen when I was getting out of school and having to take on any crappy job that would pay. When I like what I’m doing I always make my best work, and for me to grow as an artist it’s important that the passion comes first and foremost, even if the money can sometimes be enticing.
What kind of work can we expect to see in your upcoming show with Hashimoto Contemporary?
A lot of drawings from ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for a while. I’m still trying to figure out what they all mean together as a collection, but undoubtedly it’ll be a bit spooky.
How do you see your work evolving in the future?
I want to experiment a lot more with different ways of painting and drawing and combining the two. I havent left myself enough time in the past to just fool around and not worry about a finished product. It’s hard to commit to a piece not knowing whether or not it will come out the way you want it to, so it’s important every once in a while to forget about how you’re going to make money and think about how to take your work to the next step for yourself.
How’s Coffin doing?
He’s doing great. He’s getting to be an old man, but still gets into plenty of trouble.
Interview conducted by Becca Knight