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Late one night, artist and activist Sam Tranfa had a dream. She was staring into an endlessly white expanse populated by a singular and lonesome figure. It was a woman, who soon turned to Sam with an assortment of paints dripping from the canvas of her face. The colors came in almost every hue, extremely bright and beautiful against the backdrop of her mental dreamscape.

Sam Tranfa woke up and jotted down her inspiration, which came at the perfect time. Sam was short on cash, pouring most into her tuition at the University of Central Florida. There was a scholarship opportunity at UCF called Unifying Theme, focused on current, social, and environmental issues. One way to apply for the scholarship, was to submit art.

Tranfa worked tirelessly on her painting, the “Femme Du Monde,” a majestic and otherworldly image of a woman against a tea-stained canvas, with differing stripes of color running down her face. Each stripe of color is an abstract representation of a pigment, encompassing the skin tones of all the women of the world; which is what Femme Du Monde translates to in English. It won Sam the scholarship at UCF.

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Sam grew up in South Florida, a place where nature and everyday existence seemed to collide, surrounded by the ocean while the Everglades teemed verdantly behind. She absorbed the sights and sounds of nature, which had a profound impact on who she was to become. The Femme Du Monde’s hair is blue like the ocean, because, as the artist claims, “the ocean brings us all together.”

Sam was an only child, regularly turned to art to keep herself occupied. Her Godmother, Terri, was her biggest advocate, accompanying and encouraging her as she recreated sketches out of various fashion magazines. Sam especially loved drawing women’s faces and figures, putting them on paper in her own way. One can still see this formative influence in her later work.

Her first big break came when she was permitted to design the cover of her fifth-grade yearbook.

In college, Sam, like many other creative types, didn’t consider her passion to be a viable career. She majored in marketing, with art as her minor. Her minor proved to be significant. It was in art class that she met her future husband.

Six years ago, the pair moved to D.C. And two years ago, they were married. The lovebirds have much more in common than their artistic inclinations. They’re both determined to make the world a better and cleaner place. In D.C., Sam’s husband started his own clean energy consulting company, Honeydew Energy Advisors.

Meanwhile, Sam dove headfirst into her artistic journey, waitressing by day, and painting in front of audiences with the company, Art Soiree, by night. A typical painting would take six hours and she’d usually wrap up her shift at around midnight, leaving with or selling a piece of work that didn’t exist a few appetizers before. As she painted, attendees of the events would mill about and grab drinks and enjoy conversations amongst themselves.

Many times, Sam’s art would draw their eye. They’d approach to speak with her about what she was painting. This was her favorite part. Not only could she network and get a foothold in the D.C. art scene, but she could spread awareness on global issues.

Sam was burning out. She yearned for the comfort of her private studio, where she could paint at a more meditative pace, adding more nuance and depth to her creations. The dual life of waitress and painter was also proving more difficult than originally imagined.

Sam decided to put her UCF marketing degree to good use, carefully choosing a nine to five that would line up with her values. This is how she got into solar energy: first working with a nonprofit called GRID Alternatives, and now working with a company called New Columbia Solar.

She paints mostly at night.

Sam has three main bodies of work which consist of about twenty to twenty-five paintings. She has the Femme Series, which features the “Femme Du Monde,” the Climate Series which brings attention to global warming and other environmental issues, and the Pollination Series, spotlighting the importance of pollinators, bees mostly, that play an integral role in food production.

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When Tranfa started her Pollination Series, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was a lesser known phenomenon.

Currently, Sam is working on a series about consciousness. She plans to depict a plethora of prominent women, both in her life, and the world, holding the flowers most representative of their spirits. Flowers are important, Sam says, because they represent the transformative leap in consciousness plants took one hundred and thirty million years ago.

Humans will need to make a similar leap in consciousness, Sam says, blossoming into a new awareness of everything’s interconnected nature. Why the necessary change? She cites the world’s leading climate scientists, who say we only have twelve years before global warming is completely out of control. The spike in temperature, they claim, will result in “drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.”

The new level of consciousness, Sam believes, is the realization that “we need to save our planet.”
As an activist, Sam informs me, there is no better place to be in than the nation’s capital. D.C. houses all of the major activist organizations, such as WWF, Oceana, and Nat Geo. It is also a hot spot for clean energy companies, like New Columbia Solar and Honeydew Energy Advisors. Besides all that, it’s an interesting and art savvy metropolis, persistently inspiring her to create.

Sam’s career is moving along nicely. She’s currently taking commissions, sells a wide assortment of her art at popups such as Umbrella on 14th Street, and is constantly painting, practicing, and getting better. As an artist, Sam hopes more local businesses, apartment complexes, hotels, etc., would exhibit the work of local and up and coming artists. “Studios can be very expensive, so if D.C. wants to keep its artists, they need to create more space for them.”

 

Part of the BYT Art Census 2019 series

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