Sam Winston is a man of many words. With the obsessiveness of a lexicographer and the perfectionism of a master craftsman, the London-based artist creates many of his sculptures, drawings, and books out of language itself, splicing up words, endowing once lifeless definitions with human vitality (and, in one case, a thirst for blood), turning the heavy volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary into airy origami, and arranging the emotions of Romeo and Juliet into blocks of text that somehow both muffle and amplify the force of Shakespeare’s tale of love, lust, and blood.
With work in the MoMA (New York), the Tate Galleries (London), and the Getty Research Institute (L.A.), Winston is heading to Miami in April for a three-week Fountainhead Residency, during which he will be interacting in unannounced but presumably cool ways with local poets. He also is scheduled to give a talk at the University of Miami on April 13 as part of the O, Miami poetry festival.
Last week, I video chatted with Winston about growing up dyslexic, Mayan butterflies, several of his works, and his favorite word. In the spirit of mixed-media, you will find photos, audio, and text below. Enjoy.
On the origin of his fascination with language
I grew up dyslexic, so my basic interest came from having a difficulty watching people use the writing system in a way I couldn’t use it. I didn’t really understand going from nouns — real-world objects — outward into articles and pronouns and adjectives. The further it went from the real world, and the more abstract the code got, the more I had difficulty with piecing all of these parts together. One of the things I found really helpful was using visual language, using images.