Sam Schembri | Iconic

This project received an Honourable Mention for the Chick Rice Award for Excellence in Photography

Visit: or @s_schembri on Instagram



Artist Statement

Sam Schembri is a queer artist and graduating student from Emily Carr University of Art & Design. Their involvement in the queer community inspires their research in Gender studies and Greek antiquity. They express modern sexuality, gender, and identity, through reworking myths to expose homosexuality embodied in classical histories.

All media explorations are informed by the previous, bringing sculptural aspects into their paintings, drawings into photography, painting onto printing, abstraction into figuration, and bridging the gaps between different artistic realms. Their studies have included mono-printing, silkscreen printing, drawing, photography, digital art, communications design, and multiple painting mediums, generally combining several approaches into a collage.

Their vast approaches to art-making have allowed them to stray from their main focus to play with ghostly abandoned places through photography and mono-printing. Other works capture queer portraiture through photography and installing collected personal items.



Their recent showing of “Iconic” re-envisioned myths of Aphrodite, Hermes and their intersex child, Hermaphroditus, also known as Androgyne. Sam reframes these associated homosexual mythologies by using real present-day queer people. They built magnetic circular canvases to attach physical prints and materials; as well as screen-printed freestanding mirrors made from their photography of queer friends posing as Greek gods/goddesses in drag.

Alongside the altar-like positioning of the flanking mirrors and the central magnetic canvases, personal objects are displayed. Such as cork-boards of photos, jewellery, tickets, letters, and sentimental objects are placed on plinths to raise their worth as offerings to the “queered” gods.

“Iconic” was meant to be its own space of worship, incorporating personal elements of fetishism in object-hood alongside iconic centrepieces to utilize the ritualistic behaviours of museums, domestic spaces, personal collections, queer expression, and narcissism.


Narcissus & Dysmorphia

A mirror of Narcissus accompanies “Iconic” as an anecdote to dysmorphia and queer shame. As the modern term of narcissism is quite different from the original myths of Narcissus. Several stories depict his admirers, men and women, inevitably killing themselves for his unreciprocated love.


“Nemesis, the Goddess of revenge, decided to punish Narcissus for his vanity. The Goddess lured him to a pool where he leaned upon the water and saw himself in the bloom of youth. Under a spell, Narcissus did not realize it was merely his own reflection and fell deeply in love with it as if it were somebody else. HE, IN FACT, MISTOOK HIMSELF AS ANOTHER. Unable to leave the allure of his image, he eventually realized that his love could not be reciprocated and “he melted away from the fire of passion burning inside him, eventually turning into a gold and white flower”. In other stories, he committed suicide or drowned.

This print is meant to make your reflection look like another, as the myth provides. And what does that mean? To not recognize yourself? To love something that is unknowingly a version of you? To try and love your body when it won’t love you back? Here I am, looking at my reflection, creating a reflection, and reflecting in the reflection. Thinking about self-love, gender dysphoria, vanity, and Queer shame, in relation to this myth. CHEERS to learning to make history fit my confused Queer body through my art and stretching it out till the threads break apart.”

— Sam Schembri


A Note from the Artist:

Queerness has been exhibited throughout human existence and it is time to bring it to the forefront of the contemporary art scene to reimagine its meaning. History has moulded our (mis)understanding of ourselves, and each other, leaving a lot of damage in society and I am constantly reimagining myself in an attempt to rewrite my own history and embrace who my authentic self is. This does not just relate to queer bodies but rather to human experiences altogether. The act of rewriting stories here is acknowledging what has been expected of us and what we expect of ourselves. Simply put, I want to rewrite stories; through art, about me, about my world, and about history. These stories may be homophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic, classist, and traditional, but they can be altered.

After all, history has made me, and now I want to remake it.