SUMMER 2007, WM #4: I spoke on the phone with Samantha Magowan the other night

SUMMER 2007, WM #4: I spoke on the phone with Samantha Magowan the other night
Work by Samantha Magowan, courtesy the artist

 I spoke on the phone with Samantha Magowan the other night about some of her favorite subjects. When I knew Samantha in New York in 2000 she was a painter, animal lover, and avid shopper, (we used to go on therapy missions to Barneys and once almost purchased matching Gucci jackets together…it was the end of the 90’s, give us a break) she loved to get into lengthy conversations about drugs and there effects, scenes, and her experiences. We would talk over each other endlessly, not much has changed.

 Samantha is currently a Los Angeles based artist but she was born in and grew up in London until she was a teen, moving to the confines of the almost British countryside of Connecticut, where she lived in a dark old house that had a gypsy carriage her parents had imported into the front yard from Europe. She has always been slightly misplaced like this delicately painted artifact. Her art is a result of this and delves into the magic of disassociative drugs experiences and fantasy; she uses every means she can acquire to bring us into her world of glitter and glamour. 

 At Cal Arts her classmates lost it when she abandoned the traditions of painting. They thought that she had sold out. “ Everyone thought I had gone crazy in grad school. They thought that I had embraced co modification, the world of shopping and excess.” Well maybe she has to some extent, but it works. I asked her what made her create this new style and bring the work off the wall. “ I was bummed on representational painting.” Samantha replied, “ I wanted to make art that you had to physically deal with.” She went on to say that “ Everything is very sensual.

It’s a sensual experience.” And indeed it is a sensual experience. Looking at a photograph such as the one where she is naked and covered in black paint, a green snake wrapped around her and glitter falling from the sky I am struck through with many thoughts, like a strobe light illuminating faces in a dark club. There is the snake that brings out the Adam and Eve bit but there is this almost monstrous creature holding it, controlling it, that is more of a club kid Medusa. Samantha’s installations are pushing some of the same feelings with spray painted walls, Christmas light deer, and funhouse insanity.

They seek to overwhelm and engulf... they are a happy disaster. Samantha went on to say that she “Wanted her work to be more connected to the world.” And I feel that she is accomplishing what she has set out to do. I asked her if she sees a pop art influence, and if that is perhaps what she is getting at. She replied, “There is a pop element because it’s a popular vocabulary.” Drugs? Sex? Shopping? Yes they are what makes the world turn. “ I am interested in losing my sense of self or my identity. It’s about exceeding my own limits or fulfilling desire.” She concluded. Her work is the new art, the happy art. It is art for our generation of the future. It started with the 80’s, a light sweat on a drag queens brow caught a piece of glitter, it is plastic, fantastic, and twisted.



You can check out her website at for her current shows and work. 

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Brendan Wilcox

Brendan Wilcox is a journalist in New York City.

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