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Cherie Sampson has worked for over 25 years as an interdisciplinary artist in environmental performance, sculpture and video art. She has exhibited internationally in live performances, art-in-nature symposia, video/film screenings and installations in the US, Finland, Norway, Holland, Cuba, France, Greece, Italy, India, Spain, Argentina, South Korea, Hong Kong and other countries. Sampson is the recipient of a number of fellowships & grants including two Fulbright Fellowships to Finland (1998 & 2011), a Finnish Cultural Foundation Grant (North Karelia Fund), three Finlandia Foundation Grants and multiple internal research grants for artistic projects from the University of Missouri. She divides her time between the University of Missouri where she is an Associate Professor of Art and her organic farm in Northeast Missouri where she creates some of her art works in the cultivated and wooded environments. She is the current President of Artists in Nature International Network (AiNIN). Sampson received her Master of Fine Art Degree in Intermedia & Video Art from the University of Iowa in 1997 with a minor in Sculpture.
For over 25 years my artistic work has encompassed site-specific environmental performance, sculpture and video art. Many of the works have been created in wilderness, rural and cultivated landscapes in the U.S. and abroad, inspired and informed by the unique geographies, elemental forces, built environments and cultural connections of place. At the center of my art is the presence of the natural world, physically and/or symbolically, and that of my body within those spaces. My performances occur in sculptural installations I construct in nature or other environments, for events attended by live audiences, or ‘staged’ exclusively for the camera in the form of still and moving imagery.
A significant body of my work has been created in the boreal landscapes of Finland over a twenty-year period. There, I initiated the making of video-performances, a practice that has continued to the present. These began as minimalist, one-take videos in analog format sited in diverse “found landscapes” (as one Finnish scholar described) such as mossy forests, arctic tundra and snow-covered terrain. Performing in glacially slow movement, my naked body became an extension of the landscape in an embodiment of temporality in nature – cyclical changes often not perceptible in the moment in gradual process, but as if after-images. With the advance of digital technologies these works have become more layered and mosaiced. While I maintain the integrity of the slow movement in real time in post-production, I now utilize more manipulation of the imagery to further abstract the imagery of the body.
Other performance works have occurred in a variety of settings attended by live audiences. These may take place within sculptural spaces I construct of local and natural materials in the environment, installations in indoor venues and/or public spheres. The projects often require significant preliminary and on-site research as they are informed and inspired by local legends, origins stories or myths associated with the locations in which they are presented. I have performed in such places as a human-constructed cave in a city park in Cuba, a village in the Canary Islands with an archeological past alluding to ancient women’s rites of passage, a frozen river alongside a monastery in eastern Finland and a mountainside in Korea where a she-bear tale is believed to have originated.
Classical traditions from both west and east have profoundly impacted my performance work, as widely varied as the folkloric “rune-singing” culture of Karelian Finland and the classical dance forms of India. For a decade I have been studying the South Indian dance form, Bharatanatyam. Currently I am working with the dramaturgy of the dance form in the performance project, “every.single.one” that portrays my recent experience with hereditary breast cancer. The piece will incorporate movement/dance, voice, projected video and soundscape. During treatment, I continued to make video-performances in the landscape and documented the healing process that included walks in nature, working in the garden, forest wildcrafting and swimming in a northern Wisconsin lake – my first full immersion in water several weeks after surgery.