Sa chambre de la folie: Samara Golden studio visit

Samara Golden, Bad Brains (Work under development at Golden's studio)

Samara Golden returns texts as I watch her ghost painting in a mirror. I glance behind myself to where she sits with her phone and her position matches the reflected video. I recall what she said earlier: “Time doesn’t really pass, it melts all around us.”

…lightening flashes with messages from cursed lands as the rain falls, sounding on an invisible roof. The rain is louder now. I think that in the light of this SoCal day, the power of this piece (made as it is for the night) isn’t lost but made more harsh, less subtle perhaps and colder –  like Liz Taylor blurry with fat but beautiful, whispering poisonously to her husband, “Getting angry baby? Getting angry yet? I hope that bottle was empty, George – you can’t afford to waste good liquor.”

Mirror books reflect other realities, perhaps from some 6th dimension (if there is one – in her preamble to my looking, the artist blushed and remarked hopefully of her essay on space and time, “…this is only my theory – it isn’t real.”) There hangs a necklace at the back, made from blue-green gemstones, wrought copper and beaten silver. It looks like a last piece of jewelry that one removes to cast aside before a party, so not to be overdressed. The goddess Maya might have worn such gems. (Of course the sculpture is made of painted Rmax insulation, copper tubing and tin foil. Ah, but the gems are painted also on the back – kudos to Samara for follow-through!)

I am conscious that my footsteps are soiling her lovely thick-pile white carpet. This makes me nervous and ashamed. (Sometimes the dirt of our footsteps is the only record of our existence.)

The painted masks piled like skulls on the floor are rough and grey, they look gouged and burned as though in hell. Are these the thousand possible suicides an artist might encounter while making such work? I see a cudgel hanging elsewhere in the studio. Painted Rmax with nails, it swings on a brilliant gold chain like the chandelier from a pricy 1974 tract house (where another kind of swinging was intended). “Brain smash/migraine,” she told me in flat tones, looking up from her work.

The mirror books are appliqued with flagstones, faux flagstones – full of allegory these are: “hahahahaha mirrors are the windows into our souls,” Samara mocked herself. Hmm, reflection is not capture. (Or it is, but only momentarily; everything gets layered up in a history of looking and not a thing remains in the silvered glass – it stays only in my head.)

Those piled faces, the masks, are lighter when I pick one up than any painting ought to be, and certainly lack the weight required of a portrait. Are they ghosts of paintings? Holding one, I become uncomfortably aware of the mass of my body as the gravity-less image nearly floats from my hands. There are several kinds of destabilization in this chamber of Samara’s.

Pastel pink and blue do not predominate here – this honor is left to grey and black, silver and smudged white. Instead the pale shades of ribbon decorate in a way that ties, as one’s soul might be bound to a painful memory, of a party perhaps, that ended too soon and so celebrated nothing. A party that did not happen and yet that plays like a film again and again on many screens in your head – full of regret and hope and ripe with dementia. It is a curse that slowly and with purpose drives you insane.

As I leave, Samara paints gel medium on giant, totemic suicide masks. “Good-bye!” she calls as the lock clicks behind me. The hall is quiet and empty. I remember my shirt, left hanging on a chair – I hesitate, but am afraid to go back. “Maybe after dark,” I think to myself as I drive away, “and with a drink in my hand.”

Samara Golden “Bad Brains” (a work in progress)

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