January 17, 2014

Spotlight: Samantha Conlon

The founder of Bunny Collective has a few tricks up her sleeve.

While some artists choose to focus on one discipline, Samantha Conlon simply labels herself an artist. It's not often that you encounter someone who is an artist in all definitions of the word. The 23-year-old from Ireland posses a B.A. in Fine Arts from the Crawford College of Art, where she started to build her extensive portfolio of sculpture, photography, video, and written work. Like many of the creatives featured on our site, I discovered Samantha's art through the vast tumblrverse where her images struck me as being entirely brave; addressing and intersecting concepts like the male gaze, feminism, sexuality, womanhood, and love in ways that I hadn't seen before. Oftentimes her work has the tendency to act in the same way that a personal and/or social experiment would. Through exercises like the Lovers Project and Cathy's Regret, Samantha ultimately helps us to discover more about herself but also the world around her.

THE LE SIGH: What is your earliest childhood memory involving art? 

Samantha Conlon: I remember being around 7-years-old when my parents bought me this art table thing with lots of supplies for it and a video tape on how to draw by my favorite TV show at the time Let's Animate With Tina. They used to set it up in the sitting room by the fire and I would watch and draw for hours, later I began competing in art marathon things.

TLS: You use many different mediums in your work (sculpture, photography, video, text) – do you have a favorite?

SC: I think photography feels like my “core” medium, I use it the same way some people use sketching, to rough out ideas and open up a project.

Sometimes I feel like my work is too visually dense so I get really tired of working and try to pare it down and go sort of “minimal” but in the end I am always going to go back and be attracted to all things “cinematic” which makes the camera sort of a natural tool for me. I think I've just got to own and accept my style of work, which is hard for me.

TLS: What was the inspiration behind the Lovers Project?

SC: I was going through this weird thing where I felt like, a little bitter about relationships. even though I was seeing someone who was good to me now, I had all this residual stuff from things that happened with him before, and I was just really interested in how I could live through the worst and still really care for him, and how essentially we all know that nothing will be perfect but the very fact that we have arguments and pick out things to “change” in people, we think that somehow it will be perfect, or near it. I found it very exciting to do my own photoshoot with my lover and so I thought I would ask to photograph some couples I knew. What I found happened was that they had already rehearsed the scenario before I came as the photographer so it felt like there was a little less authenticity than I liked, that's when I opened it to the internet and this was my favorite bit. I really would love more submissions because to date it's still one of my favorite things I've done (theloversproject.tumblr.com, if you're interested).

TLS: Why did you start Bunny Collective? How has it affected you as an artist (and human being)?

SC: I set up Bunny Collective in a sort of spur of the moment thing. For a while I saw that a lot of the collectives were based around American artists because obviously the creators were American and so in tune with who is creating content in their area. I wanted then to create something for Irish and English artists so that I could hopefully become aware of and meet other creative females with the hope that we'd set up a sort of support network, do shows, collaborate. I was interested in creating some sort of space that brings together the everyday and also the world online, Bunny only started in September so is still very young but we've got a lot coming this year and I really want to strengthen the group and really focus on making it the best it can be. I AM RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY WITH ALL THE FEMALES WHO ARE PART OF IT RIGHT NOW AND LOOK FORWARD TO NEW MEMBERS IN THE FUTURE.

TLS: I love your video pieces. Do you ever get nervous on camera?

SC: I never really get nervous because I know I can edit. It's a safe medium sort of, that's why I wanted to push it into performance on a live webcam feed. I feel like I'm comfortable with my image and I'm comfortable with video so therefore I have a sort of ultimate control, the picture I make will be whatever I want it to be. I feel like anyone even having an opinion of me dancing or using my image the way I do is interesting. I make what I feel is right for that moment, I get an idea and then I get it out of me and I'm sort of done with it. Also when I watch my body in a video it is not really my real self, the “me” in art is a separate thing.

TLS: You said you felt totally jaded after completing Cathy's Regret. I imagine that having a vision for a project can be equally inspiring as it can be disappointing. Can you talk more about this?

SC: Cathy's Regret was really weird for me because of my attachment to the book and because of the material I was working with for research, old photos and videos of me and my lover. When I began making that work I had just returned from four months of Erasmus in Finland where I worked totally and 100% digitally, by the time I landed back in Ireland I hadn't made anything physical in five months so I jumped straight into working with sculpture and in the end I felt happy with the aesthetics but because the book was such a huge feeling to me I felt I definitely hadn't projected everything I needed to into the pieces, which I never will, probably. I feel like nothing has ever came close to the feeling I get when I think of an idea for the first time, the physical objects that happen afterwards seem less pure somehow. I think I keep creating hoping I will get that feeling someday where I think that what I've made is of a high standard.

TLS: What have you been listening to lately?

SC: I've been listening to Beyonce's new stuff, Yeezus and a little Sinead O Connor. I listen to music mostly when I am en route somewhere but I haven't been traveling or walking places much because I'm out of the city and at my mothers for the holidays so really lately I've been lying around watching The Kardashians and dreading all the work I've yet to do.

TLS: Five women who inspire you and why?

SC: This is difficult to narrow down:

1. My mother because she's mothered four of us females and that in itself was a monster task. She makes the worst things in the world seem like they are easily solved problems. She is my best pal.

2. Emily Bronte because even with such little experience in life and in the era she lived she was still way ahead of her time.

3. Beyonce because she is a boss but also mainly because it makes me feel good to know that my little sister (and other girls her age) who understands little or nothing of feminism can now tap into those feelings of control and power by just listening to her album.

4. Bianca and Sierra Cassady for reasons I couldn't even begin to explain.

5. Constance Markievicz because reading about her in primary school was the first time I felt any sort of alliance with any female, and because her speech on women and nationalism is still stuck in my brain, here's a snippet: “The better ideal for women who, whether they like it or not, are living in a work-a-day world, would be – if you want to walk round Ireland, or any other country, dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver. Don’t trust to your ‘feminine charm’ and your capacity for getting on the soft side of men, but take up your responsibilities and be prepared to go your own way depending for safety on your own courage, your own truth and your own common sense, and not on the problematic chivalry of the men you may meet on the way."

Check out more of Samantha's work here

Written by Diana Cirullo