Cold Nights by illustrator Sam Moss is on display in the rOGUE Gallery at Eastern Edge until April 5th 2017.
Sam Moss is originally from Labrador City, she graduated with a BFA from NSCAD University in Halifax before returning to her home province where she is currently completing a degree in computer engineering at Memorial University.
Cold Nights is a series of illustrated portraits, most of which depict a single figure surrounded by flora and fauna. The drawings line the back wall of Eastern Edge’s rOUGUE Gallery, leaving the other walls bare.Smaller pieces flank a large drawing in the center of the wall and all the pieces are framed in homey, mismatched frames.
“I went to all the thrift shops in St. John’s and I finally found them, buried under all these other frames. I call them grandma frames, they’re old frames, they’re very delicate and thin with metal on the sides. They’re very traditional frames.” Moss said.
The frames along with the decision to gather all the drawings on the back wall instead of spreading them through out the gallery creates the intimate feeling of looking at family photos hung on someone’s living room wall.
One drawing shows two girls in summer clothes, staring out of the frame, zombie- eyed. There is a take-out box of taters open on the floor in front of them and one girl is holding a video game controller. The larger piece in the middle of the wall depicts a figure who appears to have lifted away a masklike face to reveal a mass of intertwined plant-life beneath. Other drawings show the figures looking straight ahead with flocks of birds, leaves and flowers surrounding them.
“It’s not a show that has a one big narrative, it’s more like little tiny characters, each with their own story. “ Moss explained.
For Moss these are very personal drawings, in art school she made more conceptual work, but these are pieces she made because she finds the process of making them deeply pleasurable.
“When I’m creating work just for myself, I love to do portraiture. My work is very detailed, I love being two-inches away from the paper with a pencil, just getting in there and trying to make all those bits of detail pop.” Moss said.
Although Moss is reluctant to summarize Cold Nights with one sweeping theme or narrative, the recurring natural imagery links the portraits, giving the show a feeling of unity.
“In some of the drawings you’ll see a lot of trees and crows, there’s pitcher plants and other plants that are native to Newfoundland and Labrador. I drew on imagery that pulls on my own experience of growing up in Labrador.” Moss said.
The fact that these carefully drawn plants and animals occupy the same frames as the human subjects of Moss’ show opens up questions about the connection between place and identity.
In the largest piece, at the center of the show, a clump of vegetation not only shares a frame with the subject but is a part of the subject’s body, suggesting that the landscape we inhabit is an integral part of who we are. The carefully chosen ‘grandma frames’ emphasize this connection between place and identity by conjuring ‘the home’ as another physical site that shapes us.