MIU BFA grad and two-time Fulbright scholar Cherie Sampson’s has her feet firmly planted on the ground on her organic apple orchard midway between Fairfield IA and Columbia, MO – where she is a professor of Fine Art at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Sampson’s recent work, Dissecting the Blossom, was filmed in that orchard and features her performance of Bharatanatyam, Indian Classical Dance, which she has studied since 2009.
An earlier piece, Her Blue Sea Fire, was shot during a live performance on a woodland property outside of Fairfield. In 2002, it screened at the former Bill Teeple (of ICON) Gallery in Fairfield. It appeared at the Primer Festival Internacional de Videoarte in Camaguëy, Cuba in 2008. In 2012, it was featured at Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration in Minneapolis, MN – an ongoing project “to bring awareness, gather unity and encourage legislation about the global fresh water crisis–and the part that women play.”
Sampson creates her work as an environmental artist in “diverse rural and wild environments” worldwide. “Initially, I made my subtle, movement-based pieces for the video camera in Scandinavia,” she tells me. Over the last ten years, her exhibitions, performances, installations and video screenings and guest panelist appearances have stretched across the globe, from Finland to France, Italy, Tunisia, Canada, Greece, Hong Kong, Argentina, Cuba, and Spain. This October, she’s planning to spend time in South Korea as an artist-in-residence.
Cherie describes her work in these diverse environments as an “antidote . . . or at the least, an alternative . . . to the ubiquitous jump cut and the plethora of incessantly moving images in both mainstream and experimental visual culture.”
“Rather than compressing immense time and distance into multitudinous and rapidly changing scenes,” she says on her website, “my images lie in a liminal place between the still and moving image, a vision of becoming and evanescence that requires quieting the mind enough to see the subtlety of a gray arctic sky turning blue-gray, a semi-transparent spider descending lightly through the frame or the gradual torque of the body on a bed of moss…”
Sampson usually shoots with a fixed Canon camera. But on her way to perform in Spain in 2014, Cherie picked up a GoPro, an impulse buy at the airport. She used the GoPro to film her site-specific performance at the Tufiarte Nature Art Symposium, in Gran Canaria. “My five-day schedule there included a two-hour performance each day along the same narrow streets from the top of the village and ending at the ocean,” she says, “My assistant followed and filmed my performance with the GoPro.” Each day’s performance had a different theme. The first day performance, Grief, was shot in collaboration with the women of Tufia who follow and become part of Sampson’s performance en route to the sea.
About a year ago, Sampson admits she realized, ‘I’m always going to Finland . . . what’s in my own environment? Why don’t I make videos about farms in the Midwest.” The result? She’s been slowly working on a project called Hands to Earth while on a one-year sabbatical from the University of Missouri.
Hands to Earth is Sampson’s homage to laboring bodies on her own and others’ small-scale farms. “I’m not interested in documenting mono-cultural, so it will be about small farms,” she says. “I’ve built a structure in my barn studio that is like a green house, stretched over with Agribon, a white light spun poly product. I’ll project video onto and move in and out of that structure.” Sampson will again use Bharatanatyam to illustrate the movements of the body working and tell the stories of hands and feet working the land.
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