Born in Toronto, Canada in 1985, Sandy Ewen received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. Since then she has resided in Houston, TX where she pursues musical and visual projects and she's a practicing architect. Ewen has released several albums, including a duo with guitarist Tom Carter, a trio with bassist Damon Smith & drummer Weasel Walter, and five rock albums with Austin’s Weird Weeds. Ewen’s visual work is closely tied to her work in sound; she uses both mediums to explore texture, composition and materials.
Ewen’s microcollages, enlarged through projection and digital printing, are an exploration of material and technique. Using a unique process pioneered by the artist, natural materials and polymers are torn, liquefied, scorched, melted, cut, and fused. When enlarged, the microscopic nuances of these manipulations are manifested in exquisite detail. Ewen has presented prints of her work at 14 Pews (2012), Spacetaker/Fresh Arts (2012), Khon’s (2013) & Galeria Regina (2014).
As an improviser in both art and music, Ewen sees herself as guiding materials and space rather than executing a preconceived composition. “I like to explore mediums and materials and tease out their essence,” says Ewen. “Working with slide projections has focused my eye on the subtitles of natural processes of decay and transformation. Through my work, I am asking questions of the materials rather than dictating answers.”
Ewen has performed with experimental rock group Weird Weeds since 2004, playing over 200 shows across Texas, the United States and Canada. (complete list: http://www.weirdweeds.com/oldshows.html)
Ewen has played improvised/experimental guitar since 2002. She has performed many hundreds of gigs in perhaps hundreds of different groupings.
Spiderwebs ƒ Tom Carter & Sandy Ewen
Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?
I'm not sure if or when I became a musician. It's a slippery slope. Maybe I forgot to stop being a musician, and for that I'd probably blame my music community and the countless hours I've invested in listening to music. A particular experience? I remember near silence, sailing out in the middle of the lake, nothing but the sound of waves lapping at the hull of my sailboat. Birds, loons. A breeze stirs the leaves in the trees. I can crush all that with guitar noise now.
What do you recall about your guitar learning process?
I've always been particularly adept at figuring things out by ear. These days I learn by exploring & experimenting. New implements, new sounds. New environment, new people to perform with, more new sounds.
Why and how do you use extended techniques in guitar?
The music that I present publicly is almost entirely extended technique. I find it to be perfect for improvisational collaborations because I can react with a physical gesture with more immediacy and with a more expansive sonic palate than I can playing with traditional techniques. I use a lot of objects, metal things, wires & brushes & chalk. I invented playing guitar with sidewalk chalk, it sounds a bit like rusty metal but nicer, smoother. Give it a try!
What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...?
In addition to playing guitar, I am an artist and architect. I have a project with a bellydancer and a filmmaker/guitar/keyboardist that incorporates video projection & my art projections with sound, movement & set design. I do projections and projection installations for other peoples' projects; I was projecting for a band and a bunch of fire-spinning flow artists a couple of weeks ago for example.
Where are your roots? What are your secret influences?
I think mostly I am influenced by the materials I work with. When I get some thing, I leave it around for a bit and wait to find out what it's going to be useful for. Visual art supplies and musical supplies are sometimes interchangeable. My art/music studio is filled with broken things and packaging materials and a whole assortment of potentially useful trash. It's inspiring.
What would you enjoy most in an music work?
With recorded non-improvised music, I like it on the 3rd listen. Improvised music is best in a live setting. If the music is good, I like the music. If the music is bad, I prefer the beer & the discussions afterwards. I like it best when it's something I didn't know could be the way it is.
Which was the first musical sound do you remember?
Probably my dad playing the piano? Maybe the Beach Boys.
What quality do you most empatize with in a musician?
Being frustrated and unfufilled! Most of us musicians here in Texas are also concert organizers/promoters & DIY record labels. Whenever people complain about it, I totally empathize. It's a lot of work and I'm always terrified my shows will be poorly attended or that no-one will care about my albums. When things turn out well I'm elated but it's a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.
Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?
Neil Young & Rashad Becker & me as a trio. I think that'd be fun.
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
Kurt Newman told me I didn't need to learn to play the guitar properly.
What gear do you use?
Ibanez Artstar guitar, various tube amps (Fender champ!), pan pedal, pet brush, steel wool, sidewalk chalk, threaded screws, hex-headed screws, the wires that drop off of street cleaners, assorted metal bits.
What do you like the most about being a musician?
I like the music I make, and I like getting to meet other musicians who I admire. It's nice being part of a larger community.
What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?
I have three gigs this week with Jaap Blonk, Chris Cogburn & Damon Smith. I'm on Elliot Sharp's upcoming guitar compilation. Damon and I have a duo CD coming out early in the new year. I've got a few releases pending in collaboration with Tom Carter, Henry Kaiser & a few other things like that. I have a visual art show coming up in January and I'm going to throw a big birthday party for myself in February (turning the big 3-0!) I would like to do some more touring, but it's hard because I am an architect and I'm supposed to work. I need to work on some more visual art and I'd like to do some more video work. I'm probably due for another solo release.
Visual Art Exhibitions
untitled 01, polymer microcollage detail
2014 Solo Exhibition Constructed Abstractions, Gallery Regina, Houston, TX
2013 Solo Exhibition Untitled, Khon’s, Houston, TX (forthcoming)
2012 Solo Exhibition Projection & Amplification, Spacetaker/Fresh Arts, Houston, TX
2012 Solo Exhibition For Tom Carter, 14 Pew, Houston, TX
2012 Solo Exhibition Pop Up Art Show, 14 Pews, Houston, TX
2013 Background Information – Sandy Ewen & Damon Smith
2013 Tributaries - Sandy Ewen
2013 The Blue Idea - David Dove/Ryan Edwards/Sandy Ewen/Juan Garcia/Jason Jackson
2012 Brighton Beach – Spiderwebs – LP
2012 Split – House Party Quartet/Sandy Ewen – Cassette
2012 Sandy Ewen/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter – CD
2012 The Weird Weeds – The Weird Weeds – LP
2010 Help Me Name Melody – The Weird Weeds – LP & CD
2008 I Miss This – The Weird Weeds – CD
2007 Unusual Animals Vol. 1 – The Weird Weeds/Shapes & Sizes Split 7”
2006 Meat Science – Friday Group Universal Illumination Orchestra – Cassette
2006 Weird Feelings – The Weird Weeds – CD
2006 Strands Formerly Braided – Spiderwebs/Mike Tamburo/Matthew McDowell – CD
2005 This is Not What You Want – The Weird Weeds CDR
2004 Hold Me – The Weird Weeds – CDR (reissued as LP in 2009)
2004 Away, Away – Spiderwebs – CDR
2013 3rd Place – Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) 31st Juried Open Exhibition
2012 14 Pews Artist in Residence
Sandy Ewen, untitled, 2012. polymer microcollage
2013 Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “HandMetal” (video)
2013 Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “PaperTracel” (video)
2013 Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “Light Bouquet” (video)
2013 Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “Performance at 14 Pews” (video)
2012 Jindra/Ewen “Sandy Ewen/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter – Untitled 7” (music video)
2010 Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “ (in)complete submission” (video)
2013 May 12 – Dona Nobis Pacem (multi-media collaboration with Oregon State University Choir, Kevin Patton, Jonathan Jindra) Alice Tully Hall/Lincoln Center NY
2013 January 18 – Tony Feher Free Fall opening reception performance with Music/Dance by Leslie Scates (choreographer) and Damon Smith (musician) featuring: Shanon Adams, David Dove, Sandy Ewen, Kristen Frankiewicz, Spencer Gavin-Hering, Thomas Helton, and jhon stronks. @ Diverse Works, Houston, TX
2012 December 29 – Comeplay Comply Array cycle, El Rincon Social, Houston, TX
2012 December 14 – Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “Evolving Installation” @ Fresh Arts, Houston, TX
Architects of Cinema at Super Happy Funland, October 2012. Photo by Jonathan Jindra
2012 September 01 – Architects of Cinema (Ewen/Nelson/Torres) “Installation” @ 14 Pews, Houston, TX
2011 November 09 – Peter Dobill performance artist w/Sandy Ewen/Weasel Walter/Damon Smith/Jim Sauter @ English Kills Art Gallery, NY
2010 May 01 – Projected 2010 an evening of performance & technology curated by Chris Nelson @ Frenetic Theater, Houston, TX
with Henry Kaiser
2009 August 8 Low Lives (Sineplex at the Audley Society) curated by Jorge Rojas. FiveMyles (Brooklyn)/Diaspora Vibe Gallery (Miami)/labotanica (Houston).