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Like the rest of us right now, the New York-based artist Justin Samson is working from home. Creation is broken up by bursts of inspiration—in the form of playlists, video games, and comical texts from family members.
His work is a mashup of colors—some triptychs, some collages, some color-blocking from spray paint—and pieces like River City evoke feelings of reminiscing on times gone by, while others awaken and enliven the senses.
Whitewall spoke with Samson to see how he’s dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, what he’s doing to stay connected, and how he thinks we may be able to live forever.
WHITEWALL: What are you listening to, reading, watch?
JUSTIN SAMSON: I am listening primarily to a Youtube Krautrock playlist, called “Krautrock 70’s” by Titi Baugey. Out of 464 songs, I am currently on the 64th video. My favorite Krautrock group is Amon Duul 2. I also have a “Dark Wave” and “Goth” playlist going. The song “Isolation” by Joy Division has been on repeat.
Around midnight I play Zelda and Breath of the Wild for a couple hours. It takes my mind off of things. It’s a trippy world I get to inhabit for a bit every day. I think it’s really good for mental health, escaping.
Last month, I read an article that Breath of the Wild is the best game to play right now, and I agree. I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, but I do have a WiiU that I got last year to play Mario Maker. My favorite thing to watch on YouTube is Ryukahr. He plays primarily extremely hard Mario Maker levels, which are really fun to watch. That’s how I got into WiiU. He also has a hardest video game playlist that’s great—original Nintendo games, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not the arcade version, which is awesome. My wife and I this time last year got about 75 percent through Ninja Turtles arcade at Barcade in Williamsburg…
WW: What are you cooking?
JS: Cooking a lot. My wife Kristen just made Alton Brown’s Better Saltines, as seen in a recent YouTube video. They were good!
WW: How are you staying connected?
JS: As an artist I appreciate isolation, but this is ridiculous. I have found, however, that I’ve been texting with my family more. My Dad yesterday sent me this picture of his “new dog.” I found it hilarious. My brother showed him Google’s augmented reality animal viewer, so he sent me a bunch of pictures of animals in his house. It was great! I laughed a lot.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
JS: Through March I couldn’t really focus on painting. I did however complete a 15-year collage project that I started while I was collaborating with Brian Belott on his collage book project back around 2004-2005. Every year between big projects I would take out the several collage books of mine and work on them. I’ve finished 114 collages.
This week, I started a new painting. I have 4 to 5 months’ worth of canvases, so I’m good in that regard.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
JS: Last night I was thinking about Ray Kurzweil. I’m trying to be positive. This might be the beginning of the singularity, with all the work from home, tech, medicines, and AI being developed. This might actually push the date closer. If we can get through this crisis, we might all just live forever.