In Synch with… Samantha Haring (interview)

Sam Haring and Sergio Gomez

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with emerging artist Samantha Haring.

I first met Sam at the Northern Illinois University’s MFA exhibition that took place at the Zhou B Art Center in 2013.  The show was wonderfully executed and among the artists who stood out was Samantha Haring. Her paintings depicting small sections of her studio were beautiful, non-pretensious and honest.  One year later, Sam continues making her own path in the world of art. Her work still maintains the calmness and reflective qualities I first saw a year ago. When you meet her in person, the work makes more sense as reflection of the artist’s own serene character. She has participated in a number of shows and recently presented a beautiful solo exhibition at South Suburban College.  As she prepares for her next two-person exhibition, I asked Sam some questions….


SG: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree did you receive?

SH: I earned my MFA from Northern Illinois University (2014) and my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011).

SG: What is your website? I also keep a weekly studio blog, which you can check out here:



SG: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

SH: I make very quiet paintings in a very noisy world. Right now I am working on a series of studio interiors and still lifes. I’m exploring the idea of “residue”, both literal and metaphorical. Everything I own is covered in paint, from the walls and floor of my studio to my coffee mugs. The remnants, the left-overs, the visible evidence of history, is fascinating to me. Studios inherently have so much energy and history to them. At the moment I’m using that subject as a metaphor to talk about larger issues of absence and presence. I draw inspiration from my experiences and the world around me. I’m an observational painter; reality is so much more interesting than anything I could imagine. I could spend a lifetime in pursuit of color and light.

SG: Your recent body of work depicts the studio itself as your subject matter. How did that started?

SH: I grew up in an art studio; this has always been my life. I was making large-scale interiors of my grad school studio, complete with all of its clutter, piles of reference books, and general chaos. At the time I was teaching two classes while taking a full course load as well as running a weekly life drawing workshop… I found myself needing peace and quiet. So, one weekend I emptied out my studio – I threw out everything I didn’t need, I got rid of all the unnecessary furniture, and I stacked all my paintings outside my studio facing the wall. I was left with just the walls, floor, and my easel. That was the first time I really saw my studio. There is so much history in a graduate painting studio. I became very aware of all the people who had used the space before me. The walls and floor were covered in marks – paint splatters, scribbled half-legible notes, and thousands of nail holes. I had been searching for the right subject matter to talk about these issues of time, memory, and inscription; it took a very cathartic round of spring cleaning to see what had been in front of me the whole time. As soon as I made the first empty interior painting, I knew I’d found what I was looking for.


SG: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space looks like?

SH: Every studio day starts with coffee and examining the work from the last session. Once I have a plan, I put my headphones on (lately it’s been Tosca, on repeat) and I get to work. No two studio days are the same; some days I’m stretching canvases, other days I’m working on several paintings at once. I only have two studio rules: 1) never bring my phone or computer into my studio, and 2) my coffee mug always has a lid. I’ve dipped my paintbrush in my coffee and tried to drink my turpentine one too many times! My studio time is precious, and keeping it distraction-free is very important, especially now that my studio is in my living room.

SG: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

SH: Ah, social media… it is both a blessing and a curse. It is a fantastic asset in terms of self promotion; I love being able to share my work with people all over the world, and it is a great way to network. I can’t deny that it is a distraction though. We’ve all experienced “lost time” on Facebook. I found that setting a schedule for my updates (and keeping to it) has made a huge difference; that way I still keep my sites active without losing too much studio time. I also pick and choose my social media tools, and I use them each for specific things. I have my website for finished work, my blog for in-progress studio updates, and my Facebook artist page for exhibition information and new work in-between website updates.

SG: What is your biggest challenge as a young contemporary artist?

SH: My biggest challenge so far has been finding my place in the contemporary art world as a representational painter. I struggled with that throughout college and grad school, and it took a while to find contemporary painters like me. There is such a push in art school to be conceptual, to be abstract, to not be “academic”, whatever that means. Trends in the art world seem to constantly swing between two extremes, and it seems to me that figuration and observation is on its way back again. Everything is cyclical. All I can do is keep making the paintings that I want to make, regardless of what’s “in style”.


SG: You have a two person show with Blaine Bradford coming up at Lewis University. How did that come about and what is it about? Tell me more…

SH: I’ve been a fan of Blaine’s work for years. ( Last fall, when I heard that Natalie Swain at Lewis University was looking for exhibition proposals, I immediately went to Blaine. We share common interests as painters and our work relates on both formal and conceptual levels. We wrote a joint proposal and submitted it; Natalie liked it and was generous enough to offer us a show. We titled our exhibition “Sirens”, which can be interpreted in a number of ways. In Greek mythology, Sirens were half-women, half-bird creatures whose beautiful songs would lure sailors to their deaths. The siren, besides being seen on every Starbucks cup, has become a metaphor for temptation, distraction, and other deadly desires. Both Blaine and I address these ideas of distraction in our work, but we come at it from very different perspectives. That, for me, is one of the biggest strengths of the show. The reception is Thursday, November 6th, from 7–9pm. We are giving an artist talk that same day from 3–4pm. The show is up in the Oremus Fine Arts Center and it runs from November 1–25.



Book… The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s about the devil wreaking havoc in Moscow, a conversation between Christ and Pontius Pilate, and an insane poet and the woman he loves. Oh, and there’s a fabulous cat in it as well.

Art movie or documentary… I’m a big fan of Art 21. The episode on Rackstraw Downes is one of my favorites. Next up on my “to-watch” list is Morandi’s Dust (La Polvere di Morandi). I also just recently saw “Six by Sondheim”, which was incredibly inspiring. Art museum… Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

Contemporary artist… Marion Kryczka.

Place to be inspired by… my mom’s kitchen

One sentence advice for an art student… Make pilgrimages to go see as much art as you can, and never leave home without your sketchbook.

Chicago cafe/restaurant… Eleven City Diner, on Wabash. Best deli outside of New York.

YouTube video… Thought of You, by Ryan Woodward



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