We recently had the opportunity to interview Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA Artist Sam Ehrnman. Her diorama Sugarland Swamp depicts a sickly-sweet Florida roadside attraction that’s been lost to time.
Sam Ehrnman is an experimental installation and theatrical scenic artist. She is interested in immersive art experiences and interactive installations that explore space in innovative ways and create an active participatory relationship between the viewer and the art itself.
Read on to learn more about what the experience of being part of our inaugural exhibit is like for her!
What do you want the public to take away from experiencing the FLORIDARAMA diorama you have created for Fairgrounds St. Pete?
Sam Ehrnman: I express a lot of curiosity in the world around me, from diving into nature to waking up in the middle of the night to Google “do cats have taste buds? How do they work?” I’d like the public to be curious and explore the sense of wonder within themselves. It’s easy to be dismissive of the “strange”, but I believe people need more strange in their life.
What about being a part of Fairgrounds St. Pete’s inaugural exhibition is most exciting to you?
SE: I’ve spent the past several years working on the production side for large companies, producing themed entertainment and immersive attractions. While there’s always room for flexibility, I’ve never been able to express full creative control over my work and Fairgrounds St. Pete has allowed me the opportunity to get weird with it! Along with this, getting to be a part of the introduction of a new community of incredible artists is a real gift in the time of chaos and separation within a global pandemic.
What inspired your Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA?
SE: Florida is ripe with tourist traps and I love to explore the less commercial elements. Abandoned and run-down attractions are a particular favorite of mine, like Boyett’s Grove in Brooksville, the Land of Oz themed attraction in Beech Mountain, NC as well as the Ringling Circus Museum. While the mythological aspects of these themed attractions are enticing, I’m obsessed with the handmade elements found within them and enjoy exploring the techniques, textures and design process of those who created them. I can’t be taken to these places without exclaiming, “SOMEBODY MADE THAT!!!”
Who is the most significant influence in your art practice?
SE: Artist Amanda Palmer isn’t heavy into visual art, but I’ve found comfort and inspiration in her fearlessness and creative expression in her music and performances. She’s emboldened me in my own work to not fear judgement and that the act of creating something is the most important thing we can do with our time.
Besides Fairgrounds St. Pete, do you have an upcoming project you’d like to share
SE: I am a part of a collective with my childhood friends operating under the brand of CovenDesignFL. We are constantly producing new works in cyanotype printing and printmaking and recently participated in the Deland Outdoor Art Festival.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
SE: Two things: 1) That panic attacks happen to many people and aren’t a sign of a bad character. 2) Be nicer to your brother.
What is your favorite FL destination or landmark?
SE: Dinosaur World is pretty amazing. The fabrication process is pretty intense, which involves carving foam blocks and coating the beasts with fiberglass and paint. The finished product looks objectively…not great sometimes, but the work that goes into creating those creatures is admirable. It’s just an unexpected and silly place in the middle of nowhere and the world would be a lot better if there were more places like that.