With her monoprint exhibit, 'Insula Insula,' New College professor Samantha Burns explores fragmented memories.
Samantha Burns has been interested in art for as long as she can remember. Laughing, she recalls her family’s home movies, where she says there’s footage of her in tears because she wasn’t able to paint at the moment.
But it wasn’t until a college printmaking class that she decided to pursue art more seriously. In her freshman year at the University of Tampa, Burns says it was a moment of feeling out of place that started her on the path to becoming an artist.
“I was taking mostly business courses,” she says. “But I would show up to class straight from the printmaking lab in a black T-shirt and jeans, with ink and grit under my nails. I thought, ‘Am I supposed to be here? Probably not.’”
After switching to an art major — and convincing her parents it was a good idea — she says she finally felt she had found her calling.
“I remember being in the printmaking room, all by myself, working on a linoleum carving,” she says. “I was grinning ear to ear, and I just felt so at home. I had been in a car crash the year before, and that was the first time since that I had felt confident and relaxed. I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
After earning her MFA from Florida State University College of Fine Arts, she was invited to participate in a collaboration between the university and New College of Florida, in which she would teach printmaking at New College while creating her own body of work, currently on display in an exhibit at the college called “Insula Insula.”
Burns recently sat down to discuss the work, her process and the inspiration for the series.
“THE EXHIBIT FEATURES 47 pieces. I didn’t think I would make that many. I have trouble working on just one thing at a time, and the laser cutter lends itself well to that, because I can let one project start cutting and work on something else. I’ve never had the freedom to create so much.
“WHEN I CREATED this series, I was living in a small mother-in-law quarters nearby. That spurred my concept for this work. I have a strong image in my mind of being in the hospital, recovering from my accident, and I was regaining my memory in fragments. Nothing came all at once — things came back in small pockets.
“I WANTED TO SHOW that sporadic remembrance of things with my art. I remember how isolated I was in the hospital, and again, I found myself in a state of solitude in this house. I wanted to play with the idea of how your state of mind can affect your situation and how solitude compares with isolation.
“I STARTED WITH THE IDEA of a desert island, or being shipwrecked. I took a day to learn how to make an origami sailboat, then I unfolded it, and it was a really interesting geometric pattern of lines and squares. I thought it was a beautiful representation of the theme, and it became the art in the promotional materials.
“THE LASER CUTTER WORKS by burning an uploaded image into a piece of paper. Depending on the settings, it will burn darker or lighter. Using the laser cutter helps me to not over-think things and just give in to the process. Along the way, there are these beautiful moments of discovery. Things reveal themselves, and the process and materials pave the way.
“THE SAME WAY my memories came back to me in fragments, this work doesn’t reveal everything to you all at once. The more time you spend with it, the more you get. These aren’t final thoughts, they’re more like a collection of middles of sentences.”