Sam Gurry is an experimental animator currently submerged in the California Institute of the Arts’ MFA program. She is interested in found objects, broken memories, and that thing you threw away last week. Her work has been screened internationally at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, SXSW, and New York Fringe Festival amongst others.
An Interview with Sam Gurry:
What inspires you to make work? Can you name any particular artists that you look up to?
I feel inspired by people. I really love people, people’s stories and people from afar. Places were all kinds of people get together, like libraries or the DMV, really inspire me because you get such a cross section of personalities. When I was a kid taking the subway in NYC, I would create narratives for strangers flowing in and out of the car. I’ve never really stopped but it’s changed. I’m still very interested in the secret worlds that people create.
There is no shortage of cool, women filmmakers that I look up and who’s work I enjoy. Amy Lockhart, Martha Colburn, Sadie Benning, Kathy Rose, Kelly Gallagher, and Suzan Pitt have all kind of blown my mind at one point or another. Helen Hill is actually the coolest, not just for her work but for her grassroots activist work. Animation is not just an art form, it can be a political tool in the hands of the people. She makes me want to be a better animator and community organizer.
One of my favorite artists, irrespective of medium, is Romare Bearden. His collages, especially those of women and musicians, are images I always revisit. His colors are raucous and the shapes fit together like a soggy cardboard puzzle. It is inherently political but has such languid humanity, it’s delivered sip by sip.
What are you investigating through your work? How would you describe your relationship with the work?
I interested in temporal things, the ephemeral. What do we throw away? What do we keep? What objects? What conversations? What people? I’m constantly going through the trash and making friends with the lonely people in my neighborhood.
What would you consider to be your aesthetic or style, and how does it show itself?
My friend from back east used to describe my art style as slop bomb which was fun and dismissive and kind of sounds like a truck stop sandwich. Across all mediums, I’m concerned with texture the most.
What do you think makes your work different from other artists?
The fact that it’s created by me and my singular voice makes it different from other artists. No one else has my vantage, my place in the world. We could speak the same words and their timbre would be different.
Are you working on anything right now that you feel is going in a new direction?
I am creating more drawn work this summer as opposed to stop motion which has been my bailiwick.
Drawing and painting have been things I’ve kept only for myself, generally, as I felt my skills weren’t up to whatever standard. In the last year, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t a standard for personal work and not to limit myself. Henry Miller kind of sucks but I love what he says in the beginning of Tropic of Cancer, “To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.” No standard, just do what you want to do.
What do you seek to express, capture, or reveal in your work?
Small moments in time, being beautiful yet disgusting. I want to make art that feels like the way a mouse dead behind a wall smells, sweet and decomposing.
How do you find the art scene in LA?
Everyone is into magic out here. Tarot, crystals, astrology, esoterica, sound baths. LA artists are all a bunch of weirdo freaks! I love it. I think it’s the proximity to the desert and the amount of space. You have room for strange faiths.
What advise could you give to someone starting their career?
Consistent creation is so important! The animators who I know that are making the work I’m most excited about creating constantly, as in everyday. You never know that that small sketch will turn into, it could be your next focus.
Can you describe any habits/rituals etc. that you do before you start working?
I create nests. Before I begin a shot, I need to have a clean space. Each scene is like a tableau and the items for it’s creation frame it. The materials can’t be disturbed in process, once I created my nest as they need to be within arm’s reach. Once completed, a fairy ring of animation detritus can be found around me waiting to be swept up for the next tableau.