Welcome back to Style Dossier, Gabrielle Royal’s column that profiles stylish queers across the country. This edition, Gabrielle is featuring Sam Kirk, a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Chicago and Brooklyn, who explores culture, identity and social issues through her art. Recognized for her public art and solo shows in Chicago, Sam has exhibited in New York, Miami, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. She recently was named official Chicago Made SXSW 2015 Artist, won the Curator’s Choice award for the Redbull Curates Chicago 2014, and exhibited at Scope International Art Fair in Miami in December 2014. While her work has always addressed social issues, in 2012, Sam began using her work to support organizations that help women, youth and the LGBTQ community. She has donated thousands of dollars from the sales of her work and continues to develop new products and ideas to spark conversations that count. *Photos by Karla Olvera
Shirt: Provoke Culture
Apron: Big Ben
GR: Tell us about your art and how do you see fashion influencing your work?
SK: My work is a visual journal of my explorations. Thru art, I document my travels and share the experiences I have with people in different cities. Currently, I am focusing on the meaning of identity. The layers we are made of define who we are, and fashion plays a major role in my research. I have an exhibit coming up in New York in June where fabrics, crystals, and other fashion industry materials were used in addition to paint and canvas. Portraiture is main focus in my work because it provides me with the opportunity to capture the people that I meet. It allows me to celebrate the different hair styles, jewelry, and clothing that is worn. One of my favorite things to attend is Brooklyn Museum’s first Saturdays. I love taking a seat and watching the rooms fill with people that clearly use fashion as a way to express themselves. Some bold, some rich in color, some casual an laid back, every single person influences my imagination. On the street, during summer festivals like AfroPunk in New York, and Community Cafe in Chicago, I find myself fascinated with the individual styles that surround me.
Shirt: Ralph Lauren
Blazer: Tommy Hilfiger
Bowtie: Provoke Culture
GR: In addition to culture and community, your work also addresses social issues. How do think art and fashion can be used as a form of activism or way to implement change.
SK: My work has always been about creating a dialogue around topics that aren’t discussed as often as they should be, such as sex trafficking and LGBTQ youth homelessness. In trying to get people to learn and do more, I use my artwork to educate people about these topics and the organizations that exist to support them. In the multiple bodies of work that I have developed, my main goal is to communicate facts through traditional art pieces (canvases and prints), however, in recent years I have begun to create fashion items such as t-shirts, bowties, and neckties. I love combining my artwork with fashion because when someone puts these items on as part of their own personal statement, they are making a statement about the issue. They are literally wearing a conversation piece in the streets we all walk everyday, and conversations are taking place outside of the gallery walls.
Aside from driving awareness, as creators, I think we have the opportunity to choose what we do with our work and how the messages we are putting into the world are also impacting our communities. In 2012, I launched an online retail site, provokeculture.com, and for every sale made I donate 25 to 50% of my profit to non-profit organizations that help youth and people in need.
GR: You mentioned traveling has given you insight. Are there specific destinations that stick out more than others?
SK: I have traveled internationally, and all of the cities I have visited influence my work. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in New York lately since I recently opened a second studio in Brooklyn. I chose to spend more time in New York because of the abounding variety of cultures that live there. There is an intermixing of people that is unavoidable in the most beautiful way. In all of my travels, Barcelona would be my second selection. Women on motorcycles in high heels, gorgeous architecture, and frequent art exhibits, its breathtaking. The largest influence has to be given to my home town. Chicago is a town-like, big city, full of charm, great food, and culturally rich neighborhoods. It’s where my fascination with curlers began, it is where you will find comparably a less grungy hipster, thanks to its boarding states our Lumber Sexuals are really doing the plaid worshipers proud and it is was the birthplace of house music.
Bowtie: Provoke Culture
GR: Is there anything coming up that we should know about?
SK: I recently launchde a line of LGBTQ focused t-shirts that can be found on provokeculture.com, I am preparing to launch a line of bow-ties in late May with Unbound Estillo, and I have been invited by Jag & Co. to exhibit my artwork at New York’s first official Rainbow Fashion Week on June 23rd.