Sam Klein


Words Kyle Collins
Photography Tim Sugden

Sam Klein calls his work “Industrial Pixelization.” That’s an impressive and creative name, but at its chewy center, his art is pointillism. The unique pieces he creates use the traditional technique, in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. Pointillism is usually done in ink or paints, but Klein uses screws. Yes, thousands of screws to create the highs, mediums and lows that makes up an image.

The term “pointillism” was coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the work, though it’s now used without its earlier mocking connotation. The technique relies on the ability of the mind and the eye of the viewer to blend the dots into a fuller range of tones. Klein accomplishes this to great effect using everyday wood screws.

His latest series is an homage to the city of Portland. Three roses, each measuring over three feet, made with over 4000 screws each, were recently on display at the Portland Rose Festival.

Where did you go to school?
High School in Lake Oswego. I took courses at PCC. I went to the Art Institute of Seattle, but like any good art student I dropped out before finishing. My mother was a professional graphic designer. I got the best of my art education from her.

Your style of pointillism is very unique. It’s a fantastic use of the materials. How did you come up with this?
It’s something I started on a whim about twenty years ago. All the screws are an equal distance apart, so the bigger diameter screws create a greater density of color or metal. I thought it might be a one-trick-pony, but here I am still finding creative ways to work with it. When I started doing portraits, it went to another level.

Do you ever call it Screw Art?
I do, it’s easier than explaining Industrial Pixel-ization, which means screw art, so there ya go.

Tell me about the roses you created for the Rose Festival.
I’ve always liked roses. They are popular, and the city is named after them, so it seemed a great subject. The Rose Festival Committee asked me to create this years Official Rose, a purple rose. I also did a 4 ft. heart shaped rose that is probably my favorite of the 90 or 100 pieces I’ve ever done. That used 4558 screws.

You did a 6×4 portrait of Stephen Colbert using how many screws?
That was 5,554 screws. I sent photos to his people, but never heard back. There was a gimmick on the show — every January his portrait was painted by another artist. I’m sure his character on the Colbert Report, would have embraced it, but I got the images to the show too late. He left that show and started doing Late Night. Now, I don’t think he wants a 6 ft. portrait of himself. I’m sure he can afford a mirror.

What’s the largest piece you’ve done?
A portrait of Alice Cooper that’s 6×4 ft. and 11,035 screws.

Many of your pieces are non-traditionally round. Why is that?
In art school I was annoyed by sterile rectangles and squares hung at eye level. There is no playfulness there. I did it just to be difficult, but it’s like the wall becomes a bigger frame and the rounds are like bubbles floating within it. Round is a disruption to the norm. That’s what art should be.

You have pancreatitis and you recently had a life and death close call. How has this affected you?
Yes, I had my spleen removed. I spent seventeen days in the hospital.

It forced me to reevaluate my priorities and stop having as much fun as I used to have and get down to business. I have things I want to do and art to make. You don’t get too many warnings in life. Basically, you live and you learn, or you don’t.

What’s next for you?
I’m adding sound sensitive LED lights to what I do. I want to go larger. The bigger I go, the bigger I want to go. The effect works better that way. But there are problems with the weight, and transportation is difficult. I’m working on that.

Where can people see your work?
I have a show coming up at Jupiter Hotel Gallery, in August and September. I have pieces on permanent display at AFRU Gallery, a 7ft. Godzilla. Every year I show at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts. I’m currently producing a piece for Voodoo Doughnuts downtown location that will be hanging on the outside of the building later this summer.