Sandy Ewen, who grew up in Canada, eventually relocated with her family to Katy, where she attended high school. Shortly after the move, she began attending improvised music workshops taught by David Dove, a winner of the Houston Press's 2011 MasterMinds Award.
Today, local musicians say that she's become one of the top improvisers not only in town but nationally/internationally, thanks to a prepared-guitar vocabulary that's uniquely her own.
When the UT-Austin graduate isn't playing shows or working her day gig at an architecture firm, the daughter of local painter Jane Ewen is melting junk, stuff and things into hand-made slides.
What she does: While playing music, Ewen uses pieces of metal, plastic, chalk and any other object that can coax interesting sounds from the guitar strings and pickups. She plays all over town, ranging from AvantGarden to Super Happy Fun Land, as well as in Austin with the indie rock-conscious the Weird Weeds.
Additionally, Ewen and Y.E. Torres, a fellow 100 Creatives artist, perform in a guitar-belly dance duo.
Sandy also pursues visual art, including a series of slide projections that's two years in the making. Filmmaker Jonathan Jindra (another 100 Creatives cat) of Binarium Productions recently documented her progress in a short film that features music by her and Tom Carter of the Charalambides. (Check out the video below.)
Her first officially gallery showing of these works is scheduled to open on January 27 at 14 Pews, 800 Aurora Street.
"I have about five working slide projectors...I work mostly with plastics for this, as plastics can be cut and melted and fused with other things," says Ewen.
Why she likes it: Whether it's the sonic or visual thing, it's the feeling she gets from improvising that gets her stoked.
"I really enjoy the process of improvising. I feel it is a really special way to communicate with other musicians," says Ewen. "Sometimes the music is really difficult to create, and sometimes it flows more easily."
"I feel that it lets me access different parts of my brain. The music also has a strong and supportive community. The social aspect is a big deal for me.
"I like the slide show because it looks so amazing. I like projecting in my apartment, and I like bringing the projectors to gigs and parties to share with other people. I feel I get a lot of support from people around me. Everyone seems to enjoy it."
What inspires her: Music and art, of course, but also nature "and not just the big stuff," she says.
"The last few weeks, the trees have turned colors and dropped their leaves, and the grass is still growing and also the pavement has nice little rocks in it," explains Ewen. "I like the balance between random distribution and probability that exists. I work with those concepts in most of my art forms."
If not this, then what: Science or some area of study that would make her brain descramble problems, such as work involving the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.
"I was talking to some folks who work at the Large Hadron Collider," she says. "I think that might be an equally worthwhile endeavor. Math is beautiful."
If not here, then where: Outer space, especially if one of NASA's spacecrafts is successful in locating Earth-like orbs. Says Ewen, "Maybe Kepler will turn something up?"
What's next: In addition to her 14 Pews exhibition later this month, she'll be this year's artist-in-residence at the Heights's venue.
Music-wise, up to five albums featuring her sounds are scheduled to drop in 2012. She's also pining to play in some sort of music festival out of the state and/or the country.
Additionally, she hopes to get her visual contributions out and in the public eye to a greater extent.
"The show at 14 Pews is my first solo visual art show...so this is really a big deal for me. I'd like the opportunity to do a larger installation of some sort," says Ewen, who adds that she also hopes to be a licensed architect a year from now.
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