FP: Is that view affected by living in a big urban center?
SS: Well I grew up in a very rural small town surrounded by nature. Even living in LA, there are mountains and deserts and forests and the ocean and huge parks. There’s never one truth about the place you are — it’s always a mix if you really look at it. You can see an ant at your feet and trees in the distance and buildings beyond that and clouds and stars and space above and beyond that. It just makes sense to me to mix things up even more. Let the current reality swirl together with past realities and distant memories and dreams.
FP: You do a lot of collaborations that seem really positive and successful. Do you ever face conflicts?
SS: I’m pretty laidback. If a collaboration fails, you still learn from it, about yourself and the other person.
FP: Your work often seems narrative with recurring characters. Is this intentional?
SS: Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I finish something and look at it and suddenly see very clear stories that I didn’t realize were being created. It’s kind of a subconscious thing I think. And the characters… some are defined to me, others are just more like stand-ins for ideas or gestures, or they are just exploring this invented world like I’d imagine I would if I could go inside. Sometimes I think of an object like a building or a machine or a tree as a character and I think of them as having personalities or emotions, like this building is happy and lost and this tree is old and forgotten. It’s a weird world that builds on itself with each new piece I make. If I reuse a house or a character or a type of tree, there’s a nice familiar quality that I like about it, that it’s expanding and contracting, breathing and alive.
FP: What can we expect from the show at Jonathan Levine?
SS: I made my largest painting, 5′ x 10′. It was a struggle but I think it turned out to be one of the things I’m happiest with in the show. I looked around when I was done and realized some of the larger work turned out more melancholy than usual. But then it’s all balanced by a very happy room full of drawings of tiny colorful worlds and flying balloons made from light bulbs and apple juice bottles. There’s a stop-motion animation short made by my friend and filmmaker Karla Carnewal, that I think adds to the life of the sculptures by showing scenes of their journeys and lives before they ended up quietly hanging in the gallery. I’m also happy with how my four big crayon drawings turned out. You can read them together in a series like a huge comic strip.
FP: Does everyone always ask you if you’re planning a children’s book?
FP: Are you?
SS: I’m thinking of ideas. I’d love to.
FP: Where can we find your zines? Are there zines of other artists that you want to let us know about?
SS: I tend to play with printing techniques and make things in small runs, so right now everything is out of print except for my new one, called laze away the day. You can find it in Los Angeles at Family Bookstore on Fairfax or at Oooga Booga in Chinatown. I would recommend my favorite all time zine, and huge inspiration, King-Cat by John Porcellino. Also the zines by various artists at Buenaventura Press and funchicken by my friends Mark Todd and Esther Watson. They all have websites with links to more good zine people.
Images courtesy of Jonathan Levine Gallery.