Pigments that Bloom

Fall in and drift away in Sam Kupiec’s layers and colors.
Sam Kupiec

A trip to Paris once left Sam Kupiec breathless. Wandering through the glass-and-metal structure of the Centre Pompidou, she came upon the works of Pierre Soulages, “the painter of black and light,” which stole her breath and words. How do you accurately describe the inspirational spark that sets the course of an artist’s life?

You don’t. Just paint.

“A few weeks later, my mum dropped off a canvas at my apartment and there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t painted since,” says Kupiec, 30. “I wake up feeling excited to paint and go to bed thinking about what I’ll create the next day.”

Kupiec’s work is a meditation on textures and tones found in nature and an homage to a childhood spent on hiking trails with her dad and brothers. The artist is an Angeleno by way of Pasadena, where, until the tender age of 6, she lived across the street from the Caltech Athenaeum. In the fluidity of memory, the first bite of a juicy Pie ’N Burger hamburger transports her back in time.

Now Kupiec calls Playa Vista home, where she often takes her paintings on a journey through her studio on sawhorses in a series of recumbent positions. The process is intuitive—pour the paint and “reach for the demands of the canvas” rather than plan or premeditate.

“Every mark is a reaction to the previous and what’s coming through tells me where to go next,” she says. “I flood the canvas with paint and water, allowing pigment to pool, bloom, or roll across the surface of the canvas, guiding the paint with a palette knife or other types of tools.”

The slightest flick of a wrist creates vast differences among her works. Kupiec is fascinated by the way layers and colors influence each other, and it shows.

“Her layering process makes each piece look like you could fall into it and drift away forever,” says Pearson McGee, creative director and owner of Santa Ynez General, a retail space in the bucolic wine country of in the Santa Ynez Valley that is carrying Kupiec’s work through July.

Take in the contours of her work as an entry point for your own emotions, urges Kupiec. You may come away feeling breathless.