About Sami Peterson


When I was a kid I believed I was an alien. If I could only train these “human” fingers to draw, I thought, I could create maps from my sparse memories, make images of my true body (eight feet tall, with dragon wings, I think). So, art is a way to record what is deepest or not verbalized within me, to make it external.

I still really appreciate using story to interact with emotion and human truths. I think a lot about the communication point between art and our interpretations of it. When I studied at UCSD, where I received a BA with honors, I was really interested in interface design, or the interaction between people and technology, and how it borrows from the arts.

Art for me is more than individual exploration – it is community connection. I spent seven years in an art collective, and now collaborate with Moth Belly and The New Narrative. I surround myself with engineers, musicians, and creative thinkers that work together. Most of my art that you can find online will be solo work, but you really just see the tree and not its massive underground roots.

I use they/them pronouns and identify as a non-binary woman.

The Art

I have come from a “new media” perspective of art. I do not think of myself as a painter, or a sculptor, but ideally, I should choose the medium that best suits the work. Sometimes this could be interactive installations or making art robots, both of which I do sometimes.

However, I also have really wanted to find my “thing” for a long time — a unifying aesthetic that people recognize as mine. In the summer of 2016 I was asked to create an installation in the main compartment of a refrigerator. I chose to layer and twist recycled brown paper packaging, coating it in moody colors of spray paint. It was my first application of “Tangled Paper.”

First application of Tangled Paper – The Kitchen, Fools Errand 2016

In 2017-2018, I first applied the Tangled Paper to a flat surface to create a gallery-ready work. I painstakingly painted each facet with a brush, appropriate for the emotional nature of the piece. This process took over a year. I have since refined my coloring technique using airbrush with hand-diluted acrylics. Not only is this faster, but it unlocks rich layering techniques that sometimes approach a moiré effect shimmer.

The first “gallery-ready” Tangled Paper Idea – Eating Promises, 2018

When I am making art, I feel myself having a conversation with both the work and myself. I approach nearly every Tangled Paper piece very conceptually. A primary goal is internal consistency; does this mark or color or texture make sense within the universe of the artwork I am creating? So, I want my audience to feel like they are learning a new vocabulary; I want them to feel like they have stepped into an entirely different reality and see if they can make meaning of that. I want them to walk away with a cathartic or refreshing new understanding, however small.

I am excited to now be developing an illustration practice that is in conversation with Tangled Paper Ideas. Expect to see tangled limbs, tails, and tendrils in my upcoming drawings, viewable on my Instagram.