DAU—Samantha Mang, tell me about yourself.
SM–Oh Gosh. well, I am an army brat.
DAU–In an air force town, you’re an army brat?
SM–Yep, dad is a retired Lt. Colonel. Mom is a retired Drill Sgt.
DAU–so, you’re not from Dayton?
SM–No, but I feel like I’m from here, or Centerville, really. I got here when I was 12. Before that we’d moved nine times. Having said that, I have to admit that, when I was younger, I wanted to leave here for someplace else. I might have even said “escape here” in those days, because I wanted something more exciting. And my older brother died here, and my feelings about Dayton were all tangled up with grief.
DAU–I can see how that would influence your feelings.
SM–Yeah, you know, but I read this thing recently I really liked. It said, “its ok to breakdown, just don’t unpack your bags and stay there.” It’s advice I’m trying to follow. I realize now how much brother shaped me. I can think of him, and how he liked to draw, and how private he was about his drawings–I drew too, but not like him. It’s funny. I won awards for drawing in high school, but that never imprinted on me as a thing I did. My older brother was an artist, my grandmother was an artist, my uncle is an artist. Me, I graduated HS and went to college for Early Childhood Education, then changed to social work.
DAU–So, how did you come back to art?
I always do things backwards. I had a child. I quit my job to stay home with my son. After 4 months I was looking for something to do. I took a social work job, but that wasn’t right either. Then I went to this sip and paint event. I loved painting. I bonded with the person teaching the class and got recruited to teach classes. When that business sold, I opened my own business, Hang Loose Painting, as a place to teach painting and raise funds. Then I went to Front Street.
I told you my uncle is an artist. In my teens, I spent some time with him in his studio in Pennsylvania. He does copper plating and makes these huge structures. His studio is in an industrial building with a big freight elevator. It is such a happy place.
So, I walked into Front St, and there was this big freight elevator. I was astonished! Here was the happy place. I actually took a picture in front of the elevator. Then I went upstairs. I HAD NO IDEA. I mean it, all caps emphasis with periods in between. I.HAD.NO. IDEA.
The community there. I wandered up and down the halls, feeling the undercurrents of energy, feeling the welcoming scents and sounds. It was a happy place. It was familiar.
Then I saw Mike Elsass working in his studio. He was surrounded by people, painting and talking. He looked up and said “come paint with me.” He seemed to be talking only to me. I painted under him for two years. I started off carrying things, then organizing things, then mixing paint. All the time I was absorbing and absorbing. Mike is still one of my strongest mentors and supporters. I have my studio down the hall from his, and still occasionally help out in his.
DAU–Your work is very different from Mike’s.
SM–Our life situation is different, we come to the work from different spaces. But I’ve learned so much from Mike. Before I painted with Mike, everything I did was intentional. I thought about the work and where it was going all the time. Mike taught me to think about the moment, to focus on the moment and relax. He taught me to push the mediums, to experiment, to let the work happen.
DAU–You’ve come a long way in two years. You’re selling work from your studio, you’re running your business and you’ve just curated your first show.
SM–Yes, that was so much fun. Curating is a good place for intentionality. The show “Then and Now” at The Orphanage gallery featured 23 female artists. They submitted an early work and a recent work, the juxtaposition was supposed to inspire reflection. Certainly, viewers could see the progression. We charged a small exhibition fee to cover advertising and the costs of the opening reception. It was so exciting for me to see 23 women artists of varying backgrounds (and areas of the Dayton Region) come together to support and learn from each other. And it’s more than just the show. Multiple people connected through this event and continue to work together to share skills and build each other up. Artists from the suburbs now paint in their downtown studios…….downtown artists have started visiting studios in the suburbs. ALL stemming from the connections made by their efforts at ONE event. It is very rewarding to me, to be able to create opportunities for people to grow and succeed. It is humbling that people share with me and invite me along in their journey. It’s amazing. I feel lucky to get a front row seat in watching their successes unfold .I think it was a successful event, people were talking about it and we had good sales from it. I’d like to put together another show.
DAU–In your copious free time? Aren’t you also on the board for ARTfest?
SM–Yes. That is Tabitha Peters-Guidone’s fault. I met her at Decoy Arts. First she asked me to submit something for ARTfest and then she asked me to join the board.
DAU–Talk to me about ARTfest.
SM– ARTfest is an annual community event in Beavercreek that happens at the end of September. The idea is to showcase the art of our area. I’ve noticed that the suburbs and the city are really separated. At artfest, we try to connect our communities through art. It’s really exciting. I am currently working with the ARTfest Board on hammering out exciting new details for 2020. Follow https://www.facebook.com/infusionartofthemiamivalley/ to stay updated on dates, deadlines, and more!
DAU–Tell me something you like to do in Dayton.
SM–My husband and I are looking forward to ice skating by the river during the holidays. When we can get a sitter, we like to have lunch or dinner at Blind Bob’s, and usually find ourselves playing arcade games at Ned Pepper’s by the end of the night.
We have a young family and have been members of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery for the past 6 years. That’s a great place for kids. We like taking our kiddo to the Dragons games. Before it got too cold, y husband and I got to spend a morning whizzing around Dayton on the new spin scooters. That was really fun. We are looking forward to the Dayton Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Schuster Center and taking a glass workshop with Ohio Valley Glass after the first of the year. It’s not hard to find things to do in Dayton. Our community is very welcoming.
DAU–And what’s next for you?
SM—Having experimented with the use of salts in my work part of this year, I am excited to expand and enlarge my Salt series. Currently the largest salt work I have is a 16″ x 20″ triptych on stretched canvas. I want to create a larger work, maybe double that size. Something that reflects my experiences with floatation therapy. I go to Gravity Spa – the only spa in Dayton that offers flotation therapy. Floating in a tank of water saturated with over 1000 lbs of epsom salt promotes relaxation and overall physical and mental well being similar to the Dead Sea. It is one of my favorite ways to relax and relieve chronic pain. The epsom salt in the tank makes you buoyant and has a ton of benefits for the body. I am thrilled that they’ve given me access to some salts to use in my work. Creating a work incorporating the same salts that provide me with so many benefits feels like a double dose of relaxation and healing!
Other 2020 goals, good question for this time of year! I want to show my work in Dayton, I recently became a member of Dayton Society of Artists and am excited to get involved with their 2020 calendar of events. I hope to focus on drawing in 2020 – that will be a challenge. I actually find drawing tedious and sometimes frustrating. But I believe strongly that it betters my skills as a painter and that’s beneficial. Plus it’s good for all of us to have some form of a little discipline, don’t ya think?
I will be looking into curating a show or two this year. I don’t know when or where yet, but I really enjoyed curating the group show “Then and Now” at The Orphanage Gallery. Curating gives you a different view of art, you know. I turn back to my own process with fresh eyes. And then, there is all the other work and interaction of artists to enjoy.
DAU–Sounds like you’ll be busy. Thanks for making time to talk to us.
SM–Thank you and Artists United for helping artists connect with each other. I really enjoyed the last gathering at Wholly Grounds.
DAU–Then, I hope to see you Wednesday, December 11 from 6-8 for the next Artists United gathering. Spread the word. Artists in all media, not just visual artists, are invited to discuss art, the artists community, and the future of the arts in Dayton. Artists Create: Artists United Create Change.