The environment in which an artist creates can often set the tone for their work. Anne Samat, a rising star in contemporary woven art, recently traveled from her native city of Kuala Lumpur to work and live in the city of Peekskill. Samat’s exhibition Greatest Love opened last Thursday at Hudson Valley MOCA and marked her first solo show in the United States.
The exhibition came on the heels of a three-month artist residency, during which time Samat produced seven pieces in her unique style of fiber work. Samat is very connected to her family and the separation required for the residency galvanized that familial connection. All of Samat’s pieces are representative of her family, like the striking, Ocu: Family Warrior, which is emblematic of her brother. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Che Yah: The Greatest Love is an homage to the matriarchal strength and beauty of Samat’s mother, who recently passed away.
Ranging anywhere from three to ten feet in height, Samat’s sprawling wall-hangings defy not only the eye, but most traditional categorization. From a distance, the bursts of color and texture radiate outwards to form totemic shapes, but as you get closer the composition is truly baffling. An array of rake tops and painted car rims blend seamlessly into the sheets of intricately woven fibers. Collections of plastic toy soldiers hang in orderly rows, flanking woven cores made in a traditional Malaysian style, but comprised of contemporary materials.
Many of the components of Samat’s pieces are not from art suppliers, in fact, 99¢ stores and big box hardware retailers were some of her mainstays. “The first time I went to Home Depot, I asked if they could leave me there and let me just absorb the space,” explains Samat. She ended up staying for six hours. Samat has been creating using a combination of woven fabric and what she calls “unconventional objects” for years and the theme of integration is at the core of her philosophy, both literally and symbolically.
Samat views her artist residency with Hudson Valley MOCA as a cultural exchange. “We are all part of a global family that has so much in common, even if it doesn’t look that way when we are separate,” says Samat. This perspective is analogous to Samat’s process of melding unlikely materials to create pieces that manifest in a unique and elegant harmony.
The Greatest Love exhibition will be on view through September 8 at Hudson Valley MOCA. For information on gallery times and other events, visit: hudsonvalleymoca.org.
William Bermingham works in the Communications Department at ArtsWestchester. He is a graduate of Purchase College where he studied Arts Management.