Sam Meador is an artist who explores physical and mental labor through performed gesture. Her efforts, which are often private or performed for a limited audience, typically involve a quotidian task carried to exhaustion (for both the artist and viewer). The viewer is often left to consider the unsettling juxtaposition of failure with hope. Meador documents her performance with clinical video, or still photographs. For this reviewer, the totality of her documented oeuvre stands independently as artistic product.
In Perfect Circle (2014) we watch the artist, in a frontal close-up of herself, carefully cutting a dark piece of paper into a “perfect circle,” but the cut is in fact imperfect, so she cuts again and again. Eventually the paper becomes so small that it disappears. With each snip of the scissors there is hope for a perfect circle and yet in the end none appears. Maybe if she tries one more time?
In Physical Fitness Test (2015) the artist presents a female (herself) and a male colleague performing pull-ups. Step stools are gradually moved from the male to the female, making his effort more difficult and hers easier. Still both perform to exhaustion and the video ends. The futile nature of this repetitive process is obvious, what is less obvious is the underlying agenda: social, Marxist, feminist?
In Planting Seeds (2015) the artist meticulously prepares a bed of concrete mix and plants seeds. The final act is one of watering, which of course turns the powder to concrete. Although reason tells us that this toxic mixture cannot possibly lead to germination and growth, the care and attention lavished on this act leaves the observer to wonder if a persistent seed may actually sprout.
In her latest performance GoogleEye Dance (2015) the artist is recorded in frontal and vertical format performing an energetic dance to the music of Hall and Oates—Private Eyes. Dressed in a nude body suit with small “google eye” applique, she holds two saucer sized “google eyes” in her hands and uses them as her “face” toward the camera. Moving forward and backward as she dances she encroaches on the viewer’s space in the foreground and crashes into the boundary of the performance in the background. Private eyes they’re watching you, they see your every move. Is the artist pursuing a personal agenda, or a universal comment on the current state of public access to private information? This is not clear, and not explained.
For this reviewer following the body of her work over the last two years, I see a meticulous attention to repetitive and ultimately futile acts. These acts that are a priori prone to failure are not necessarily hopeless. Like Sysiphus she pushes a rock uphill only to have it fall before reaching the crest, unlike Sisyphus this viewer is left with the hope that after a brief rest the artist will try again and perhaps succeed this time. Beyond her stated objectives her performance and documentation are purposefully vague. It is left to the viewer to divine meaning, which is most probably her intention.
Links to mentioned works:
To learn more about Sam’s work and her process please visit http://sameador.blogspot.com/
As part of the second-year graduates’ Thesis Projects I course, candidates were each assigned two of their cohort to review. As students begin writing their thesis papers and constructing artist statements, this review process proves to be beneficial twofold. Students not only exercise their written critique skills, but are able to read about their own project from other voices. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting these reviews, so be sure to visit regularly for insights and photos of the second years’ progress!