After months of mostly isolated living (and a massive boost in screen time), we’ve seen/participated in our fair share of Instagram challenges. The most recent comes in a series of black and white selfies promoting support amongst women. As a female-driven brand, we’re all about women empowering women 24/7/365. Plus, it just so happens we could all use a little extra mood-boosting positivity right now.
In the theme of solidarity, we’re highlighting friend & female creative, Sam Rueter. The uber-talented artist took a moment to (virtually) chat with us on life in the studio and why she attributes her work to the feminine experience.
“I want my work to be an outlet for women's stories; to prove that they are also usually not mutually exclusive. We all have vulnerabilities, power and the ability to heal. I allow women to pose and tell their stories through their body language. My work is only the medium.”
1. As a small business owner, how are you coping with the new state of normal?
It's definitely a strange time for everyone around the globe. My heart goes out to small business owners everywhere who are doing everything in their power to survive this pandemic. Two days before the stay-at-home order; I was packed and ready to board a flight to London for an exhibition I had worked months to prepare for. It feels like years ago at this point, and it's pretty insane to look back and see how rapidly things changed. I remember looking at my bags and thinking, 'well, I suppose it will be rescheduled for next month or so'-- and now, nearly half the year has passed. Many of us had big goals for 2020. It felt like a monumental year for some reason; and now those goals feel unreachable and a bit distant. I think as business owners, the biggest shift is the change in written plans. Your growth and success really become engrained in who you are-- and formulating these "plans" months ahead of time; from marketing strategies to exhibitions and collaborations, are deemed essential for the health of your business. Once COVID-19 appeared, within a matter of days, all of those things go up in smoke. It's heartbreaking and discouraging. Where are we left standing?
To be transparent about this experience personally-- my ability to cope with the lack of control has been quite surprising-- and I think it speaks to the decisions I've made to constantly 'freefall' as an artist. You have to be willing to surrender. I suppose the last four years in this industry has prepared me for this moment. That's something to be grateful for. I also believe small business owners are much more resilient than many tend to think. We're the scrappy fighters. And we won't go down easily. I am very hopeful COVID-19 is not an exception to that.
2. Where do you typically find inspiration for your artwork? How do you manage to stay creative through these challenging times?
The inspiration for my work stems from the feminine experience. I want my work to be an outlet for women's stories'; to prove that they are also usually not mutually exclusive. We all have vulnerabilities, power and the ability to heal. I allow women to pose and tell their stories through their body language. My work is only the medium.
Being unable to shoot women in real time has been a bit of a struggle for my process; but I'm fortunate enough to have friends who have sent self-taken photographs for me to work off of.
I've also started a new series of self-portraits, ones that explore the experience of isolation. So, while it has burdensome to an extent, it's taken my work to a new, challenging direction-- one where I have to face myself, once again. I think many of us are doing that in one way or another, right?
When quarantine first started, I was very inspired by all of the time I had in my home studio. I romanticized it, almost like a relationship in the honeymoon phase; I would stay up all night painting and couldn't get enough of the 'creative high'. I enjoy quiet, introspective times in my safe spaces; so being forced to be home was my normal, daily comfort for a long while. About a month and a half in, I hit a wall.
I was drained. I had stopped all forms of self-care in sacrifice to create and be productive, mostly because I was home. Up until that point, I hadn't recognized the unrealistic pressure I had placed on myself to create. This is global event unlike any of our lifetime; one where our communities will emerge in a different light. I believe artists everywhere may feel an unconscious pressure to document not only the change underway right now; but also, how we want to move forward-- what we want the new world to look like. To be the voice of reason, curiosity, and possibility. That's a very large responsibility to feel you must carry. And it can take a toll.
Someone once told me one cannot find inspiration by sitting still in the studio. Inspiration doesn't come to you, you go and call to it, almost like a continuous game of hide and seek. Well, in the time of a global pandemic; those options have fallen short. My inspiration has been reignited by turning inward. Journaling, meditating, and experimenting with new mediums has led to new progress in the studio. Keeping the boundaries between work and play has become essential.
3. What’s been sparking joy for you lately?
Taking the time to slow down. The last two years have been a whirlwind of so many new experiences and projects that I almost feel I've had no time to breathe. I've been reading a ton, doing puzzles, and spending a great deal of quality time with those I love virtually. I've even started gathering a personal photo album. I recently sent over 25 rolls of film to process (that I had been putting off) and have been labeling the backs of the photos in detail; something that my grandfather did for thousands of our family albums. It makes me feel connected to him, who I miss deeply, especially now-- but also allows me to hold the moments in these photographs with deep gratitude and remember to present with all that's happening in the now. A snapshot of all that's been and all that's yet to come; even in the face of uncertainty. x