Thursday, October 27, 2016

Philadelphia civic pride and frogs about the election

I'm particularly Philly proud this month because my work is in two group shows in two of my favorite civic buildings. 

You can see my work in A City of Artists, Celebrating the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours Philadelphia Art in City Hall gallery in room 116 on the first floor of City Hall. The exhibition was organized by the wonderful people at CFEVA and runs through December 2, 2016. The show celebrated the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, which run annually in October, and which brought some lovely people to my studio last weekend.

A tiny book with images from my paintings will also be on view in another Philadelphia civic building in November: I'm in the Philadelphia Center for the Book's Little Lexicons exhibition at the Philadelphia Free Library's Central branch. The exhibition will be up from November 4th to January 13, 2017, and I couldn't be more thrilled. The Philadelphia Library is one of my favorite places in Philadelphia, and I am a regular. I especially love their Print and Picture collection and the exhibitions up in the Rare Books Collection. If you are from Philadelphia and you haven't been up there, you should go, stat. (Because Grip!)

And last but not at all least, my latest frog painting, What We Must Do, is in a show curated by the brilliant Susan Coote in Episcopal Academy's Crawford Gallery called Messages and American Dreams, which is up until November 16th, 2016. I'm delighted that Susan included this piece it: she's an amazing curator, and these frogs are all about the election, so it's wonderful to have them in this show.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Two new paintings: Visions and What we Must Do

I just put two new paintings on the website. The first one, Visions, is one that I started last fall before a brain injury and resultant vision problems stopped me working for a long time. There was a break in the middle of making this painting, but that worked out well. It's a complicated painting. The piece is about envisioning and vision, how we see ourselves and how we see painting.

The main text, which starts in the banner on the left, says, "If we presume it comes from what we need..." 

It continues across the top of the painting, "Maybe we should come to terms."

What I'm talking about here is my sense that there are vast areas of aesthetic pleasure and exploration that are left out of most art making. It's the same sensibility that motivates a lot of lowbrow work, but in my case I'm intent upon reconciling my sense of what is important in my daily life with what I value in painting. I'm trying to integrate my visual and psychological pleasures; my tendency to be an aesthetic omnivore and my desire to create a narrative complexity that honors lived experience.

These flowers are saying "It's us against the world" and "But, but...I like the world!" The first flower replies: "Oh Yeah."

(I hardly ever draw myself in paintings, except as a frog or bug.)

There are three big eyes in the painting. Each one is different. This one says, "The looked-at eye, imagined, adored. " The one on the left below is labeled, "The neutral, seeing eye, perceiving, confused." and the one on the right is the biological eye.

The turtle is making a proclamation. It says, "Perhaps there's more to be gained from a reconstruction of the natural than from the pseudo scientific narrative of modernity, which, let's face it, leaves everything out." The blue creature behind the turtle is a glyptodon, which is a wonderful prehistoric armadillo-like creature the size of a Volkswagen beetle.

I've made several small experimental drawings and paintings that I haven't put on the website, but I do post them, and pictures of work in progress, on instagram. You can follow me @ the_drawist. There are several new little paintings and drawings on instagram that began as test pieces: I've been trying out some new materials, thinking about making more pieces that lean more towards painting than drawing. 

The piece below, which is called, What We Must Do is almost entirely a painting. Only the eye of the large frog is drawn in ink. It's on a panel, and although I liked making it, I doubt I'll give up my pens any time soon.

(I mentioned above that I rarely do self portraits that are not frogs or bugs. In this piece I'm the frog on the bottom right.)

You can see details of my pieces on my website, and if you have any questions, ask away...

Friday, January 22, 2016

2015 Went Out With a Bang..On the Head

Samantha Simpson, Pumpkinhead and the Egg (detail), Watercolor, 2015 

My website shows hardly any work for 2015 and unfortunately there is a very good reason for that.  I spent the summer making a book, and there are a few paintings I haven't put up there yet, but the big problem was that I sustained a major brain injury. I concussed myself, badly, doing nothing very impressive. I was sweeping up some crap off the floor and when I stood up I hit my head hard on a counter. And that started a serious four month process of healing from my fourth concussion.

My first concussion was when I was in thrird grade. Fell off a wall, woke up in an ambulance. Second was in college. Bike accident: passed out, woke up, wore a neck brace for a while, done. My third was five years ago: banged my head on some scaffolding, felt sick for about a week. This one was far, far worse. I damaged my brain. I severely knocked off my vision and sense of balance. There is a pretty good article online here that talks about someone else who had a major concussion with vestibular issues: my experience was like his in many ways, but it was also better and worse. I healed much faster than him because I did vestibular therapy, which works really well. My experience was worse than his because I also had severe vision problems. I couldn't read, much less drive. Looking at anything too difficult (text, a phone, a pattern, knitting) blew out my vision almost immediately. It would double and stick that way. The combination of the vision and the vestibular issues made it difficult for me to do very specific visual tasks. My eyes didn't track well together, so I couldn't handle stripes, patterns, looking back and forth or near and far quickly, or looking at too much fine detail. I'd get a migrane, then dizziness, then my vision would blur out, then the world would start tilting and I'd have to high tail it to a dark room. Vestibular issues mean that you offload your balance problems to your visual cortex, so that you can't handle too much visual stimulus without falling over, so I was very very dizzy a lot, and I hung out in dark closets like some crazy art professor Quasimodo when I was teaching in order to reset my brain between classes. I did manage to do a few sad paintings of bruised pumpkin heads, but that's about it. It was a pretty miserable fall. (You might notice that the image above is blurry. Yeah.)

But on Tuesday I got kicked out of vision therapy. I can read, I can work on screens, I'm cleared to drive and I can do my art (Stripey! With lots of detail! And patterns!) so I'm hard at work, and so happy about it. I'm back at work on a painting I started this summer, and it's great to be at it again. 

Saturday, January 02, 2016


This year I was in Philadelphia for New Years, which meant I had the great pleasure of photographing the mummers! It is one of my favorite ways to start the new year. Enjoy.

I will post new work soon, I hope. I had an injury that messed up my vision for a while, but I'm almost done recovering and can't wait to get back in the studio.