20 Questions: Sam Parker

Sam Parker recently relocated to Colorado after living in Atlanta, Georgia for 20 years, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have this spectacular, dedicated artist in our vicinity. Sam is a fine artist, as well as a tattoo artist at Claw & Talon in Boulder.

Sam will open “The Raven’s Guillotine” on First Friday, May 6th, at madelife. 

We asked Sam 20 questions – some about his artistic process, some about his life, and several about his upcoming show opening. 

Tell us who you are in one sentence.

I am a seeker of truth and a catalyst for change.

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When did you know you were an artist? 

I’ve made things since my earliest memories, but I think it was around 2nd grade when I gained social praise for drawing well that I started identifying as an artist.

You somewhat recently moved to Boulder from Atlanta. How has this change in place affected the art you are making now? 

Because I haven’t had twenty years of involvement in Colorado. I’ve had time to slow down and focus on technical aspects in my drawing. I’ve focused specifically on ink drawing, whereas I used to paint and sculpt and do performance and murals and curate events. The move has given me a chance to hone a particular skill and pull all of those diverse energies into a single track. I still want to experience all of those other forms of expression but I’d like to unfold them one at a time and practice each with the maturity that comes with time. The physical beauty and wildness of the landscape has also been hugely inspiring. I’ve always lived in urban areas, I love the mountains.

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Will you share with us some of the symbolism or meaning attached to “The Raven’s Guillotine”? 

I perceive the main layer of meaning to be autobiographical, reflecting my recent move from Atlanta to Colorado. The raven representing the traveller, loosely a metaphorical self. The guillotine represents the decapitation of ego formed through social construction. The second layer of meaning has to do with the gentrification and homogenization of the landscape that is happening in Boulder, all over the U.S. And globally. It’s difficult to answer this question because specific symbols are often intuitive and and not intellectually chosen and only after combining does meaning begin to emerge.

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Describe the weirdest/coolest piece you’ve ever drawn, painted, or tattooed? 

One of the most memorable projects I’ve completed was called Majestic Hours in 2008. It was a collaborative drawing project with my friend Joe Tsambiras. We started drawing in 2007 at the Majestic diner in Atlanta. We spent a year completing over 70 collaborative drawings. The project culminated in a book release and an art show at the now defunct Beep Beep Gallery. One of the unsuspected side effects that our collaboration had was that we inspired a group of other artists to join us at the Majestic to draw, it was beautiful.

Where do you go or what do you do to get inspired?

Inspiration comes from many different sources. Sometimes from reading, sometimes from hiking in the mountains, sometimes from a painful break up with a lover. I’m inspired by other artists work and conversations with friends. Almost every aspect of life can inspiring.

What do you like best about being an artist? 

There is a constant possibility for reinvention and discovery. It’s always exciting to stumble upon something inspiring and be driven to make the work that reflects it. It’s that same feeling when I was a kid alone in my room playing with Legos, after the ships and castles were built acting out a battle with full sound effects. Being and artist  is the maturation of continuing to play as an adult. It’s always hard work but it’s fun and rewarding.

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Describe the setting of where a piece of your art will be in the year 3001. 

Ha ha ha, hopefully not at the bottom of a landfill. Ideally I’d like to have my work in every major museum around the globe. I’d also like the people who have collected my work to hold it in high enough esteem to pass it on to their children with a note of praise. This is a difficult narcissistic question. The truth is I would like every high school and college art student to study the work of the great Samuel Parker. It’s more likely that that our culture will be wiped from the face of the earth by a cataclysmic flood or something of that nature and the last remaining piece of my work will be a some graffiti I did in 1996 discovered under a train bridge.

Do you collaborate with other artists and if so, what is that like? 

I have done quite a bit of collaboration in a variety of media. It varies from project to project. Most important, I always try to say “yes” to my collaborators. I find that saying “no” to an idea is the easiest way to shut down a project. You also have to be honest with your collaborators, some collaborations are fruitful and some come to nothing. On a drawing collaboration an image will often be passed back and forth until the image feels complete and usually it doesn’t require both people working in the same space at the same time. With a collaborative performance, there is usually a conversation that happens at the forefront then an improvisational period, with later refinements before the performance. The most exciting part of collaborating is that the finished project has elements that would never happen singularly, they only occur in a space between you and the other.

You get one super-power, what is it?
Slowing time to accommodate all of my ideas. I probably only complete a quarter of the ideas that I intend.

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What do you know now, that you wish you knew then?
Relax, life is to short to be stressed out.

What is the last piece of art or literature that you purchased?
The last two books I purchased were The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis, and The Blazing Dew of Stars, both written and illustrated by David Chaim Smith. The Last piece of art that I purchased was in Atlanta last year, a lithograph by my friend Sarah Hemingway.

What plays on your stereo?
I’ve been listening to Royal Thunder a lot lately, also Village People, Beats Antique, Funkadelic, Run the Jewels, Fear, Puscifer, Pink Floyd, Behemoth, Uncle Acid. Also a huge fan of Willie Nelson, David Bowie, Joanna Newsom, Leonard Cohen, Fred Eaglesmith and way too many others to name.

Coffee or Tea? Tequila or Whisky?
I drink tea every day, Yerba Mate in the mornings and sleepy time tea from Rebecca’s Apothecary in the evenings. I love coffee but can’t do it everyday. Whisky all the way, I like it neat.

What was the best piece of advice you ever got?
My teacher Omar Yisrael said to me one evening “There are those who do not know that they do not know, There are some who know that they do know not, and there are those who know that they know. It’s important to know where you are along your own journey” The best piece of advice I’ve ever read was by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching “The richest man in the world is one who knows when she’s had enough”.

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How culture affect your art?
Well for instance the phenomena of gentrification and homogenization has largely affected the symbolism in the Raven’s Guillotine. I observe things and my interpretation comes out in my work.

Has mentorship been a part of your career as an artist? If so, how?
Yes I think so I have had Mentors in College and Friends. When I was coming up as a graffiti writer in my late teens and early twenties there were several people that mentored my developement. I have also had several Tattoo apprentices over the last 20 years.

What keeps you making art everyday?
It’s my most effective means of communication with the world. It gives my life meaning and helps me to feel connected.

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Are you superstitious?
I don’t think so.

Any words of wisdom for young artists?
Keep making things, keep getting involved, when you get discouraged know that that is part of every creative person’s life, have the courage to continue.

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Find Sam on Instagram: @samparkerartist

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