On the Cover: The Fluid Portraits of Samantha French | August 2021 | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Samantha French has been painting aquatic light and human forms for 20 years. The combination of fluid water and solid figures have long inspired her. “Water is a universal factor, crossing social and economic divisions. It is a life source—powerful, renewing and healing, and that resonates with me,” she says.

French takes inspiration from her memories of childhood summers spent on the lakes of Minnesota. She considers herself to be a figurative painter, but the refracted light of water adds an abstract quality to her work.

“Having the figure as a reference point allows me to focus on the abstractions that the reflections in the water provide. Along with the contrasts they bring, discovering how the two things react with one another, such as how the light bouncing off the skin mimics the ripples in the water above, is fascinating to me,” she says.

While her paintings may look somewhat chaotic up close, there is a rhythm to her work. The patterns are a direct reflection of the aquatic reflections and provide a filter with unnatural skin tones and distorted shapes and colors that add a dream-like quality.

But French endeavors to make her work accessible in such a way that the viewer can experience what the subject is while being transported someplace else. “People are always going to bring their own references and perceptions, so it’s less about me conveying my personal thoughts and more about getting a feeling across,” she says.

The scenes she depicts frequently occur during summer and represent a certain degree of escapism. “A lot of my work is made out of the nostalgia I have for the quiet, tranquil, weightless feelings of being suspended in water or drifting in and out of sleep, sun-drenched and poolside,” she adds.

Originally from Minnesota, French moved to Queens, then Kingston for a few years. A resident of the Rosendale hamlet of Rifton, French greatly appreciates the sense of community of the Hudson Valley, especially amongst artists, and sees many similarities to her childhood environment in Minnesota. “Visually it feels familiar, and it’s good to be back in the woods. I’ve found the pace and nature have allowed me more time to really focus on my work,” she says.

French’s partner is the painter Aaron Hauck, whose work was featured on the cover of Chronogram in February. The couple have collaborated on a number of murals and will travelling to Minnesota this summer to complete another. In the meantime, a selection of her work can be seen at the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson. 

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