Sam Rathbun, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of February 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Sam some questions about her work and studio practice:

Sam Rathbun
Sam Rathbun

Q: Please you tell us about your background.
I grew up on a multi-generational farm in Naples, NY. After graduating high school, I pursued a degree in international development from Tulane University, however after taking a required drawing class, I dropped my major and transferred to SUNY New Paltz where I received my BFA in painting and drawing. I currently work at Salem Art Works (SAW), an artist residency, sculpture park, and community arts hub on the border of NY and Vermont.

Heimlich, paint, ink, muslin. Variable dimensions. 2016
Heimlich, paint, ink, muslin. Variable dimensions. 2016

Q: How would you describe your work?
In school I focused almost exclusively on painting and drawing and developed a method of utilizing drawn interiors to examine the boundaries of memory and perception. A few months after graduating I participated in a residency at SAW where I began working three dimensionally. During the first week of my residency, my family’s oldest barn caught fire and completely burnt down. This event changed the trajectory of both my subject matter and material use.

Currently, my work concerns processes of production, manufacturing, transportation, and marketing of goods, particularly those rooted in agriculture. I’ve found a reservoir of absurdity while examining my own ignorance as a consumer, especially considering I was raised by production.

Recently, I have limited myself to ink drawings when working two-dimensionally, but have no material restrictions when working sculpturally — although I do have a fondness for gummy materials like beeswax and rubber.

Once We Carried. Used conveyor belts, re-used and new elevator bolts, 11" x 25" x 6 ". Salem Art Works, 2017
Once We Carried. Used conveyor belts, re-used and new elevator bolts, 11″ x 25″ x 6 “. Salem Art Works, 2017

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Research and play compose the foundation of my work. I latch onto bits of information that I read, hear, or see and store them until I find one or more complementary components. I think finding the link between these seemingly exclusive ideas or materials is the soul of my practice.

 Memory Merchandise. Fabricated steel, cast iron, paint, 14’ x 20’6” x 12’9”. Franconia Sculpture Park, MN, 2017
Memory Merchandise. Fabricated steel, cast iron, paint, 14’ x 20’6” x 12’9”. Franconia Sculpture Park, MN, 2017

Q: Who is your favorite artist?
Currently I’m really into the work of Janine Antoni. I’m most interested in her process. She’s able to transform rudimentary, visceral actions into poetry. Viewers see her sculptures as remnants of a transformation and are left to imagine the steps in between. Other artists who are constant sources of inspiration are Martín Ramírez, Mika Rottenberg, and Ambera Wellmann. Ramírez’s drawings are a testament to his need to make work and both Rottenberg and Wellmann share this absurdist humor that I obsess over.

Janine Antoni: Eureka. Bathtub, lard, soap, and Dorian, 1993
Janine Antoni: Eureka. Bathtub, lard, soap, and Dorian, 1993

Q: Who inspires you?
Within the past two years, I’ve noticed how integral reading is to my practice. Two of the most influential books that I reference are the Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. The project I’ll be working on at MSA was almost entirely conceived from a paragraph in the Jungle where Sinclair describes why slaughter houses were built vertically. Animals would walk up a ramp to the top floor and by the time their bodies came back to ground level they were completely transformed, packaged, and ready to ship.

Creamery. Ink on paper , 36.5" x 95", 2018
Creamery. Ink on paper , 36.5″ x 95″, 2018

Q: What type of music do you listen to?
I will try pretty much any type of music. I’m looking at my recently played songs and I have everything from FIDLAR to Erykah Badu. I also listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I work– I just started Murakamis, Kafka on The Shore.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I made several large wooden frames that roughly represent the layout of factories where raw goods are transformed. During my residency I anticipate creating ink drawings to hang within the framework. I also hope to add to this installation by creating a space to hold several glass and latex sculptures.

Water rehab "grassholes", Ink on paper. 36.5" x 93", 2018
Water rehab “grassholes”, Ink on paper. 36.5″ x 93″, 2018

Q: What’s next for you?
I anticipate working as Salem Art Works for another season as the Young Artist Coordinator and using my winter to participate in more residencies.

Q: Where else can we find you?
My website is and I just started an Instagram: @sathbun.

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