Samuels - Biography
Her paintbrush scrubs the surface of the hundred year old hand woven canvas. The artist pauses to step back from the altar where her painting rests, along with a glass of dusky red wine, crafted just beyond the hill outside. Sunlight streams through the rosette window above, illuminating her workspace and her inspiration. The Tuscan studio of artist Sasha Samuels is a 14th century Romanesque church, its back nestled into an oak forest teaming with wildlife, its Southern façade gazing out over the vast cultivated valley below. "Realizing this studio has been my dream for over twenty years." She savors her time here, and it nourishes her, both physically and spiritually.
Born and raised in New York into an artistic family and surrounded by European immigrants, Samuels developed her creative passions as a child. By age twelve she was selling her small sculptures in a local shop. By age eighteen Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were commissioning her for portraits of their family's horses. After graduating high school with honors and a fistful of awards in arts and language, she attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Here she intensified her studies in jewelry and metal arts, taking her senior year abroad as a member of her school's European Honors Program in Rome, Italy. This decision to spend a year in the Eternal City proved to be a landmark decision for the young artist.
Anyone with a lust for life who has been to Italy has been overwhelmed by its art, history, beauty and sensuality. Samuels immersed herself in this deep pool of inspiration, gaining knowledge and experience. She emerged baptized with an indescribable sense of inspiration that comes from daily contact with timelessness, with greatness. She has held her own work against this standard ever since.
This unwavering standard coupled with Samuels' natural artistic talent explain why she has received well over a dozen awards in juried exhibitions for her jewelry and paintings. Her work has appeared in over fifty publications, and her jewelry designs cited as contributing to global design trends. Her success culminated in receiving the national grand prize from the American Jewelry Design Council, naming her the year's top new designer in America. More national awards followed.
"I've spent thousands of hours drawing, painting and studying the human figure. I have an understanding of it that most jewelry designers don't bring to the table. When I create jewelry it works in concert with the body's forms, it enhances its lines, amplifying the wearer's beauty." Samuels focuses on the jewelry's comfort and relationship to the body. She designs with flexibility in mind - often her pieces can be worn in a multitude of situations and configurations, able to be taken apart and reassembled in different ways to suit the needs of the wearer. For example her U-Necklace can be worn twenty eight different ways by adding or subtracting components. Each of her pieces always has a special story or feature, and each is created with the spirit of fine art in mind.
"I do not follow the style of any particular artist or artistic movement. Rather, I seek out the quality of excellence in those visionaries who have gone before me, striving to achieve that degree of excellence in my own work. Some of my favorites are Gauguin for his use of color, Cezanne for his brushwork, the Italian Renaissance masters for their sensitivity, and the Etruscans for their simplicity of line and form." Samuels' paintings are bold, representational works often bordering on impressionism and colorful fauvism.
After returning to Italy to study with masters, both alive and not, she has found her home in her little canonic house and church in eastern Tuscany. "When I first leased the place, there was no electricity, no running water. Bats flew in over my head through its broken windows. I was camped out in more of a grotto than a house." She has been carefully rescuing the building from the elements while allowing the exquisite views and local color to saturate her work. This symbiotic relationship between place and artist has culminated in Samuels' most recent body of paintings in oil and watercolor, works begun in situ, later completed on the altar of her abandoned church. Her images are saturated with the valley's atmosphere, its luminosity and flowing contours. Moving back and forth between the natural cathedral of ancient oaks and her own personal temple has been a powerful reminder to the artist of her own sensuality and spirituality. "This is why I sought out this place - a harmonious combination of nature and chapel. I place an unfinished canvas on the altar, step back, feel the sacred, lift the brush, actively waiting for that goody that all artists hope for - the possibility of creating something that delights and astonishes oneself. I have been very fortunate here…"
Presently, Samuels divides her time between the Pacific Northwest, Southwest Florida, and her studio in Italy.
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