Pilsen’s Dmitry Samarov

One of the most best things you can do when Chicago is exploring Pilsen and it’s incredible artists. From Minimalist galleries to full blown passionate and colorful Graffiti, screaming happiness. We were lucky to learn about a monthly art walk in Pilsen that happens every last Friday of the month, bumping into the very artsy crowd- from Art students at world renowned SAIC to photographers, painters, artists, musicians and simply those that want to have a good time while immersed in one of Chicago’s coolest destination for creativity and the arts. I stumbled upon an artist who had such a creative way to express his thoughts. His sketches and colors that fill them are quite unique, telling a story that he is happy to share. I was curious about Dmitry Samarov’s life as an artist in Chicago and I thought I’d get to know him better. Here’s what he has to say:


I’m interested in your childhood

I was born in Moscow, Soviet Union in 1970. I remember the teacher in 1st grade threatening to shave off all my curly hair. I remember doodling on my Lenin red Star pin. When we were emigrating in 1978 my parents told me we were just going on vacation but I guess I knew better and ran away. They had to go find me out at the playground by my grandparents’ house.

I remember my father teaching me to tie my shoes on the lace ribbon that held my music folder I had to carry to flute lessons when I was about 5 or 6. At the music school they insisted, because of my allegedly having perfect pitch, that I switch from flute to violin. I was made to play that instrument from age 6 to age 14. It’s probably a big reason I chose painting over music. I hated playing that instrument and still get uneasy hearing orchestral music sometimes.

Do you ever go back to Russia?

I’ve never been back. I’m not from Russia but from the Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists. There’s nothing for me to go back to really. Almost all my family’s either in America or Israel and I was too young when I left to form any real relationships. I’ve looked up the building in which our communal apartment was on Google Street View and it didn’t look familiar at all.

What are your earliest  memories?

I remember my grandfather changing a decorative vent on his Zhiguli from a black plastic to a shiny chrome (Zhiguli was a pirated Soviet version of a Fiat.) I remember getting hot bubliki (Russian bagels) from a kiosk on the street, as a reward for going to the doctor or on errands with my mother. I also remember eating a tangerine once and thinking it was the rarest treat ever.

How did you get into art?

I don’t remember ever not drawing. I had a stamp collection in the last years in the Soviet Union which I took along to America and added to from letters from back home. Those stamps are probably one of my earliest art influences. Drawing has always been how I’ve related to the world.





Who influenced your decision to be an artist?

It wasn’t ever a conscious decision. I tried to fight it for a time in high school, to be part of the normal world, but I failed miserably and gave in and have never questioned it since.

Why Chicago?

I came here originally in the winter of 1990. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago let me transfer from Parsons School of Design in NYC in the middle of freshman year. I did not really fit in that school and knew I had to leave after about a month.

How has Chicago contributed to your success?

Chicago is the subject of a lot of my work so whatever success I’ve had is inextricably linked to it. It’s a well of inspiration I feel I’ve barely dipped into and I’m almost 25 years into it.

What’s different about Chicago & NY?

The people are friendlier, the rents are cheaper, we aren’t packed as tightly together here… there’s a lot more room to breathe. There’s also a lot less pretension. It’s not called The City That Works for nothing, that’s what people do here, rather than just talking about it.

What’s the local art scene like and it’s future?

I don’t participate in the art scene much so I can’t really say except that it has always felt to me that people in the art scene make work to impress or one up one another and that’s not why I make art. As for it’s future, I have no idea. My brain just isn’t wired to think in hypotheticals like this!

By Paul Germanos: Chicago painter Dmitry Samarov at LivingRoom Gallery
By Paul Germanos: Chicago painter Dmitry Samarov at LivingRoom Gallery

What quote do you live by?

There are way too many good passages I’ve read to narrow it down and my memory’s lousy for quotes so I’ll have to leave this blank except to recommend almost anything by Joseph Mitchell, Nelson Algren, and William Gaddis (among others. Those are just the first writers who came to mind.) Open one of their books at random and it won’t be long till you come across something remarkable.

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