THE SMELL OF OUR OWN
Mother Interviews Artist
Ghada Alwani interviews her artist son, Sami Alwani
From my adolescence studying writing, to my years in art school, my parents and family have always enthusiastically supported my career as an artist — even when they don’t fully understand the work I’m making. My comics range from the political to the sexually deviant to the highly personal and occasionally controversial. With this in mind, it was enlightening for my mother and I to have an opportunity to sit down together, and for me to answer her questions about my art, much of which touches on our shared experiences as a family.
Ghada Alwani: How did your family affect you as a human, and as an artist?
Sami Alwani: I think for my personality I took a lot from both you and Dad. Dad is really intellectual and booksmart, and I think in that sense my work as an artist is really detailed and technical. Whereas you are very empathic and social. You’re very good at understanding people and you have a very strong intuition. So I think with the two of those things combined, I was able to think in technically complicated ways, but then also step back and be able to see the larger picture, and bring a more in-depth emotional understanding of people into my work.
GA: What are you trying to convey with your art, and what do you hope to contribute to the world with it?
SA: When I am choosing what I want to make work about I often write about things that are bothering me about the world we live in. A lot of the time people just keep doing this annoying thing and I really want them to stop, so I choose to write about those issues. If I have a strained relationship with my family, or if I feel alienated from society, or if I can’t find work in a failing economy and I have no prospects because society doesn’t value the work of artists… those are all things that bug me, but instead of focusing on my individual circumstances, I try to relate those things back to the larger social constructs that created those problems. So I take the symptom of the illness that I’m experiencing personally and relate it back to its source, what the illness really is. I think a lot of the time it’s about the way we think, our ideology.
GA: What is your writing process like? What inspires you when it comes to your ideas?
SA: A lot of the time my stories for my comics come to me in a very weird way. I don’t think it’s how people are traditionally taught to write. I get a lot of things in bits and pieces, like a collage before anything is assembled into a narrative. I’ll take influences from a lot of the artwork I’m reading or seeing, and as I’m processing that I come up with little phrases and fragments and try to be fastidious about writing them all down. Eventually the fragments almost start to organize themselves into a narrative. Then afterwards, there’s a lot of editing where I assemble them all so they’re cohesive. I don’t mind if there’s a bit of a staccato or disjointed rhythm to it. I think that’s interesting in the pacing sometimes. Doing it this way really frees me up. Everything is laid out in front of me in a very free form way and it’s much simpler for me to take those pieces and put them in the right order.
More about Sami’s work atsamialwani.com.