Sam Grabowska is a recovering academic, a child of immigrants, and afraid of the sound of commercial toilets flushing. Their art practice and their research focuses on the psycho-architectural refuge we seek from emotional trauma.
Early on, Grabowska found safe haven in their middle school darkroom, hiding from the awkward and painful purgatory of young adulthood. In high school, their art teacher, Floyd Tunson, introduced them to mixed media and ways of channelling subconscious experience into surreal imagery. As an undergrad, Grabowska started playing with 8mm and 16mm experimental film at the University of Colorado Boulder with Phil Solomon and Stan Brakhage. Inspired by Frederick Wiseman’s documentary, Public Housing they also began to study architecture, specifically, how buildings can hurt or help people.
In the mid 2000s, Grabowska ran away to Oakland and later San Francisco, where they worked for a sculpture gallery and sited public art. Grabowska returned to Colorado in the late 2000s to recalibrate and complete their master’s degree in interdisciplinary humanities. Grabowska theorized a concept about these leftover spaces – “feminine wilderness” – the overgrown and fecund spaces of our youth where we find magic, refuge, and dangerous intimacy.
Grabowska then moved to Michigan for their PhD in architecture with a cognate in cultural anthropology. They researched the huts that unauthorized border crossers make on the US-Mexico border and how those shelters mitigate emotional, political, and environmental trauma.
Now, back in Denver, Grabowska is an artist-in-residence at RedLine working in installation, sculpture, and digital media. Their current exploration involves human hair, clear and translucent substrates, and common building materials like concrete, wood, and metal. Grabowska is still striving to conjure imaginative shelter for those of us who need it.
Image courtesy of the artist.
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