March 1, 2016

Shape Shifter

Artist Sam McCurdy’s work draws from the banal and the beautiful.

Sam McCurdy came to Dallas for solitude. A Philadelphia native who studied in Baltimore and lived in New York and D.C., McCurdy was drawn to the mythic space of Texas.

“I wanted to make art by myself in a city where I didn’t know anybody,” the MICA graduate says. “When you are creating art within the institution, you are constantly infl􏰀uenced by your circle’s opinion. I wanted to find my own voice.”

It is this independent spirit that defines McCurdy. Her art consists primarily of paintings that she calls “snugs.” She works in a rectangular format created by traditional painting stretchers. She pulls spandex across these frames then disrupts the otherwise clean, taut surface by fabricating protrusions evoking bones and table legs. Appearing simultaneously organic and produced, these forms bring attention to both the skin-like quality of the fabric as well as its synthetic nature. There is a palpable tension, as if at any moment the fabric could split.

McCurdy’s method was born out of a frustration with how her family incorrectly stored her paintings. While in school she would leave her work at her family home, only to return each summer and discover that, without fail, furniture edges and legs would be poking through the paintings, ruining the canvas.

“Instead of being angry, I decided to intentionally start poking objects through my paintings,” McCurdy says. “I wanted to celebrate something that typically renders a piece ruined.”

McCurdy’s work is also inspired by her day job as a stylist at TenOverSix. She’s adopted the language of the fashion industry by organizing her paintings into seasons—like “S/S Resort 15”—and pulled colors from designs by Rachel Comey and Nomia.

“I like the way fashion catalogues itself,” McCurdy says. “It’s cool to pair bodies of work or ‘collections’ with the year and season it was made. I can look back years from now and see where I was then, and where I am going now. It’s a marker for my artistic evolution.”

Her snugs are documented in a manner reminiscent of a designer’s lookbook. There is a trite sexuality to these staged photographs that perfectly ref􏰀lects the resemblance of her paintings to erogenous zones of the human body.

“My pieces literally stick out at you and, for many people, I’m sure are uncomfortable,” she says. “Wild or sexual, even. Regardless, the paintings I create demand audience engagement.”

McCurdy’s talent for bringing together disparate elements has also manifested itself in That That, a creative venue founded and run by the artist that has established a platform for some of the most exciting parties, music, art, and theater happenings in Dallas. That That is notable for its inclusive, “everything goes atmosphere.” It is a place where everyone is welcome, and experimentation is embraced. Think of it as a living embodiment of McCurdy’s work. (And count us in.)

Check out some of the TenOverSix fashions that inspire Sam here.