About this body of work:
In every field, on paper, in paintings or within installations, my goal is to deliberately collapse the lines between abstracted unknowing and that which we can instantly recognize. Where do they cross? Like a thief breaking into a vault with an ear pressed to the door, listening intently for the right combination to slide into place, I hunt those moments down. For the maker and for the viewer, those moments of collapse, are the best parts.
The work comes with an open and off-kilter invitation to approach, to sort through and gather together all these suspended forms and shapes like so many scattered toys after a kids’ game gone wrong. Toeing that line between familiarity and strangeness is a game. It connects you and me. Do you see what I see? What do we add to each other’s experience when we see the same thing? Or, when we see it completely differently.
In general, what I think artists do, is give us ways to experience everyday situations in a more complex way – or make over-the-top situations more bearable. To the extent that my work does this I’m not sure, but that’s about imagination. I want to invite viewers of my work to use theirs. Imagination is a distinctly human characteristic, directly related to our connectedness and empathy. Can we share an experience while we each have one of our own? Can that help us consider another’s experience in a whole new way?
Do you have any favorite quotes or nuggets of advice to share?
A quote that I’ve been coming back to again and again is from Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. I think there’s this myth about creativity—that it just drops down on you from the universe if you’re lucky and you have no controlling it. But if you only work when you feel inspired you’ll never get anything done. I think you have to work until you’re inspired. That’s also about making lots and lots of things that might suck. Then every so often a magical moment happens when that thing that was sucking turns beautiful, just like that. But that only happened because you showed up in the studio that day in the first place. Creativity is as much about blessed moments of clarity as it is about the dirty work of problem solving. Which leads me to the other hand which is a quote I remember my grandfather saying to me: “The harder you work, the luckier you get”.
Another great quote is one I just came across the other day from the artist, Kiki Smith (who’s work I’ve admired for a long time): ‘Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I’m given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision.’
‘Do your work anyway’—I love that. To me it’s about doing your work for yourself and staying true to who you are and the reasons you started in the first place. Because that very quiet, very original, small voice that drives you to make things probably isn’t about making money or even the outside world at all. I love the idea of letting go of control and in doing so, making room for the unexpected—for surprise.
What cracks you up and why?
Definitely my kids. They just don’t give a shit. They’re in a magical place right now (almost 6 and 4 years old). They’re becoming who they are and so far they are pretty unfiltered. They haven’t been wrung out by societal pressures and what’s appropriate or not, like the rest of us. They say and do these hilarious things…sometimes my husband and I just look at each other with raised eyebrows, like ‘Well huh. What the hell was that? Pretty awesome.”
If you had another talent, besides making art, what would it be?
A ballerina or some other kind of dancer. Salsa, anyone?
What would your last meal be?
A big, fat pizza. The ‘Drunk Hawaiian’ at D’Alessandro’s in Charleston is my all-time favorite. I’m seriously sad I can’t order it right now.
Could you list a few words that you would use to describe your work?
Thoughtlessly careful, casually precious, carelessly precise.
We often have a person(s) who influenced us and helped set us on a certain path. Who was it for you?
Teachers. I can’t give enough credit to the art teachers I had throughout school. At every point along the way was someone who gave me specific help and encouraged me. Either within a specific project or assignment or regarding my next big step, like going to grad school.
Can you share a childhood memory that may have influenced your choice to be an artist?
I remember being in elementary school–maybe 4th or 5th grade and my friends would all ask me to draw things for them. Well, that’s my memory, it could actually have been only like three people. But, remember the old school Mtv logo? With the tongue sticking out and the big lips? I got REALLY good at drawing that. I remember that making me feel good about myself, like it was something special I could do. I just kept going I guess…I’m still repeating, making the same image over and over.
I am always fascinated by the whole notion of why artists do what they do. Can you let us in on WHY you paint/ collage/ do what you do?
I feel a drive to make things. And I find joy in the materials and the physicality of the paint and glue and brushes and the colors and textures. Paint is such an emotive medium–and actually painting–it’s a release. You know, I feel happiness and pride and gratitude about lots of things but I also feel sadness, anger, and grief about others. All of those exist inside, as energy, pure energy. Painting for me is a way to release that. When I go through periods where I can’t work very much, I feel unsettled and so antsy. Oliver Jeffers writes and illustrates some of THE most wonderful children’s books I’ve seen. He said that he is lucky enough to be doing what he loves and so has a responsibility to enjoy it. I feel the same way. When I heard that it struck me as maybe the point of ALL this—and that’s really about gratitude. It’s not exactly WHY I do what I do but it’s an important concept to me and I think, I hope, it comes through in my work.
Sarah lives and works in Charlottesville, VA with her husband and their two children. She received an MFA in painting from James Madison University in 2006. Over the last decade she has exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions in South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Washington, DC and Virginia. Sarah has twice been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2013, 2014) and in 2014 she was awarded a professional fellowship in painting from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Her work is in numerous private collections across the country including Baltimore, Charleston, Denver, New York, and London, AK, FL, KS, NC, NM, TX, VA, as well as in Virginia and South Carolina corporate collections. Here are articles about Sarah in Charleston City Paper, The Art Mag and The English Room. She was one of the featured artists in the December 2015 issue of Fresh Paint Magazine. Sarah was listed as “One of the Twelve Southern Artists to Buy Now” by Southern Living in 2014. There was a recent post about her in Figure 50. Link to her personal website here.