Exhibition at North Tampa Branch Library
Show Runs from Nov. 16, 2019 to Jan. 9, 2020
8916 N Blvd, Tampa, FL 33604, (813) 273-3652
Essay written by James Cartwright
Adjunct Art History Professor at University of South Florida
(November 16, 2019)
Samson Huang is just the messenger. In his new exhibition Open Portals at the North Tampa Branch Library, the artist asks you to suspend your everyday thinking and take a little vacation into other worlds. Each painting is an individual entity that is activated through interaction with the viewer, with the artist playfully opening the door for you. The exhibition features 11 new oil paintings on canvas that cover a range of subjects from Samson’s life, such as his move to Florida, his reflections on technology and consumer society, and other sometimes mischievous inner workings of his exuberant imagination.
Samson is a self-taught artist that has been painting for thirty years, most recently creating work in Washington, D.C before becoming a resident of the Sunshine State. Since his move to
Florida three years ago, he has exhibited in several group exhibitions, including shows at Hidden Springs Ale Works, the Carrollwood Cultural Center, and he recently had a solo show at the Bunker coffee shop in Ybor City.
Although he names artists like Picasso and Matisse among his influences, Samson is truly inspired by the people and everyday moments that we often take for granted. Familiar images of a visiting mother-in-law taking a smoke break are placed next to observations on the rowdiness of Tampa Bay sports culture. Viewers can immediately recognize the pastel-drenched environments of Florida, with brightly colored paintings of hot air balloon rides, picturesque scenes of the Hillsborough River, and sleepy parks alongside Nebraska Ave.
Samson also conveys the sensory experiences that we overlook, as he relates a vivid memory of summer rains hitting his roof when he first moved to Florida. Scenes of children playing in inflatable swimming pools echo Samson’s childhood memories of splashing in puddles near a fire hydrant in New York, conjuring those intimate and unavoidable feelings of homesickness. Samson is clear that he is commenting as a resident and a member of the Tampa community, while he takes in his new surroundings and interprets them through his personal history and experiences.
Many paintings also include subtle social commentaries. Holiday Sales (2019) points out our need to consume objects, with the store’s aisles pressing in on a solitary shopper and restricting her movement. A ramshackle tower of stuffed animals like some childish Raft of the Medusa looms over her while a mass of furry limbs and bulging eyes follow her footsteps. In Silent Contemplation (Portugal Cloister) of 2019, Samson reflects on a recent trip to Portugal. His careful attention to architecture showcases his developing interest in constructing spaces for the viewer, but a closer look leads to veiled references to colonial history and the subjugation of indigenous peoples.
No matter the subject, close looking and exploration is rewarded in Samson Huang’s Open Portals. Let curiosity be your guide through each doorway and see what awaits you on the other side.
The opening reception for Open Portals is Saturday, November 16, 2019 from 3-5 pm at the North Tampa Branch Library located at 8916 North Blvd. The show runs from Nov. 16, 2019 to Jan. 9, 2020. The exhibition is part of the library’s Gallery on the Boulevard program that supports emerging local artists in the Tampa Bay community.