Check out our VIM Magazine interview with Artist, Creative Coordinator, and Art Educator Samantha Sumler of the Erotic Heritage Museum. Having started working at EHM in October 2016, she is currently working on an Elizabeth Bathory exhibit and an art component of the Evolution of Sexuality exhibit.
VIM: Tell us what your job is at the Erotic Heritage Museum.
STEPHANIE SUMLER: I have worked at EHM, since October of 2016. At first, I had no clue what I was getting into, because I had no background in the adult entertainment industry (I mean I've watched porn). Secondly, I had high hopes that the gallery at the Bellagio would hire me and I never got a call back. This discouraged me to stay in Vegas, but I decided to see what could happen if I turned in my resume at EHM.
I am currently the creative coordinator at EHM and my duties include skills of an artist and a curator. With the other curators, I share ideas that are both creative and technical, by asking questions as to: what's going to work and will it look good?
Not only do I create artwork and install exhibits, but I get to do light graphic design, prep for events, and do a little creative writing. As a working artist, this is pretty awesome because work becomes play.
VIM: What is your background in art?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an artist.
The first thing I took seriously (as in take classes and/or had hobby in) was actually music. I started playing the trumpet and started messing with other instruments. My brother and I use to jam with the guitar and bass guitar. Sometimes, we would make mixtapes of our voices and pretend we were radio djs. I wish I can find those tapes! I use to jam with my friends and we would play songs from No Doubt and the Cranberries.
In the beginning of college, I had no clue what I was doing. Thinking I was going to be some sort of doctor, I was studying different sciences and failing horribly. At the same time, I was booking bands and making flyers. I realized I spent more time doing this, than studying anatomy or biological psychology.
I took the bold risk in majoring in Visual and Public Art (with a concentration in sculpture, installation and performance art) with a minor in Human Movement at California State University-Monterey Bay. I did really well and had the opportunity to be a studio assistant to Dr. Amalia Mesa-Bains, an installation artist who is known to create the most beautiful and magnificent altars and cabinets. I got to work with her and her projects at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. At the same time, I got to assist interior decorators and collaborate with other artists --- whether it was making a video or curating a gallery space. Later, I got to teach art for the Arts Council of Monterey County and was the assistant art director for the City of Seaside, California.
VIM: Who were some of your early influences?
STEPHANIE SUMLER: My family has been my earlier influences. My mother and aunt have influenced my sense of "placing" objects in spaces "the objects" want to be in. A great example would be -- Catholic altars. They use to scare the shit out of me, because as a child, the pictures of Jesus and Mary would be glowing at 3am at the end of the hall on my way to the restroom. When I see any altar today, I think of my cultural identity and I think of my family.
My older cousin (who I like to say took the role of being my older sister) has been an influence on my life as I guess..being cool? In the early 90s, she introduced me to freestyle, hip-hop, and electronic music. She introduced me to MTV and told me to not watch VH1, because it was for old people. Without her, I wouldn't have discovered Beavis and Butthead and the demented animated variety show, Liquid Television. I think this is where my personality really kicked in as an artist.
VIM: What can we expect from the upcoming exhibition?
STEPHANIE SUMLER: The upcoming exhibits at EHM I'm working on is the Elizabeth Bathory exhibit and an art component of the Evolution of Sexuality exhibit.
Elizabeth Bathory was a real-life countess in Eastern Europe and was caught torturing peasants in the late 1600s. I'm building her dead sex slaves.
The art part of The Evolution Sexuality exhibit is a curiosity cabinet installation --"painting" the Evolution of Reproduction using sculptures of genitals from plaster molds of actual male and female participants, along with other objects.
I expect to be finished as late as April, so look out for these!
VIM: What’s next for you?
STEPHANIE SUMLER: Besides the EHM, I have formed an art group with some friends called DOTDOTDOT. Right now, we are working on a zine and supporting each other's individual creative endeavors. I hope to show work with them soon.
I am also beginning a series of large-scale "cartoon-like" tree paintings. I started one in California and have always wanted to do more. Now that I have the space, I plan to paint my life away for a couple months and find a place to show them.
Career-wise, I plan to stay at EHM and also apply next year for my Masters in Fine Arts at UNLV.
Stephanie Samantha Sumler
Artist, Creative Coordinator, and Arts Educator