Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. I think I’ll also say I grew up in Kansas, because I kind of did. ALL my family is there and we visited multiple times a year…and I went to college there for two years. I’ve always put this dividing line a quarter or a third of the way down my paintings. Just a couple years ago I realized it’s probably a horizon line in that landscape-y kind of way. Living in eastern New Mexico for a couple years also helped. Space and landscapes get seared into our brains somehow…at least they did in mine.
What is this series about? It seems like a departure from your recent paintings.
It was a rough summer and I felt a particular need to be in the studio…it’s basically the only place I can be by myself. But I couldn’t really bring myself to paint. The act of painting gets complicated. Things just needed to be simple. I thought, ‘how can I make something (because I need to), without actually making something (because I just can’t)?’ I started noticing scraps of things and cutting up new things and trying to put them together. Sometimes I would do a little drawing on top or cutting after I had combined two scraps, but for the most part they are just zinged together as they were.
You’ll see that horizon line again in all of these but also a sense of the awkward or forceful. Can I force things together that maybe don’t go? Will I realize later that they actually go perfectly? Will they be awkward and graceful and funny and weird all at the same time? Can things be both precious and temporary?
I thought maybe I could create serious things out of throwaway scraps, that they might still have life if I could just tape them together. In the moment I really didn’t think too much or take anything too seriously. Insights into my work usually come a little later. When I look at them now they seem extremely raw, yet resolute and unapologetic.
On another lighter note, a good friend said they reminded her of little objects like boxes, spatulas, brushes and combs. I started looking at them in really three- dimensional terms after that. Like, what if all your boring household objects were hilarious looking and had pink stripes? That’s funny…
What inspires you to create work in the first place?
Please see surrounding answers, which include: flat landscapes, my children, wanting to be alone, surprise, fun, curiosity, so as not to be bored, to have a life (and legacy), gooey paint, spatulas, combs, and Georgia O’Keefe (did I mention she’s my idol?)
Some of the pieces in this show are unusually shaped. How do you envision they could be displayed?
I envision they could be floated on a mat and framed in a shadow box type frame or, depending on the space, simply hung with a small binder clip or two (they make silver ones that look kind of fancy). Or pinned directly to the wall. One thing i just thought of that wouldn't require a frame would be to get a nice sheet of heavyweight paper (like watercolor paper) and binder clip that at the top corners and pin to a wall. Then take the double-sided foam tape and tape the piece directly to the larger sheet of paper. It would suggest a mat and frame without the formality and separation but still give a nice, clean presentation. Especially the shaped non-square pieces, but all in general have a three-dimensional, sometimes haphazard quality about them. I feel like they're meant to be 'played with' and there’s probably a lot of cool presentation options outside the standard frame situation.
(One of Sarah's paintings in a shadowbox frame.)
There is somewhat of a messy quality about these pieces that I think is a little unsettling. Do you feel like you are trying to push people toward the idea that art can be messy and unpolished?
Yeah. We assume that a piece of fine art is ultra valuable, fragile. And it is, to a point. The real treat, I think, is that any piece of art you’re looking at is an example of what can be pulled from thin air, from a creative, adventurous, individual mind. And that’s just a concept really. Every work of art is both an object and a concept. Something you can really have interactions and conversation with. And you don’t necessarily want to have conversations with things that are only perfect and untouchable and pristine. Right?
What is most precious to you as an artist?
My work is the antidote to many things in my life. But when I really examine it for myself it's actually the process, the studio time that feels precious. To be alone and quiet, to engage my senses, to solve problems, to feel strong, to surprise myself, to have a place in the world outside of my traditional roles, to sense connections in the world I don't feel or see otherwise. Those are some of the things I get out of being in there.
By getting this from making the work, the message doesn't really matter. I can let go of trying to manage what the audience must get out of the 'end result' and enjoy the doing for myself. There's no pressure on me as I work or on others as they look. I hope that's how people experience each piece. I think this is why my work reads as playful and light, and hopefully with a sense of humor. I take the making seriously. I use all of my formal skills and it’s serious business. But it's also fun. There is pleasure and joy in working too.
I used to say that when you’re working you can’t regard anything as precious or it would freeze you. Just recently it hit me that it’s actually the opposite. Everything is precious. If you can look at things that way then you don’t have to become too attached to any ONE thing. It gives me a sense of immediacy when I look at this particular work. That’s what I hope it gives the viewers too. A sense that change is ok, that it can move you forward and you don’t have to be scared.