Artist, Community Artist, Curator
"In my own artistic practice I have found my work to become much more introspective."
Describe yourself as a maker/artist/creative
I am an artist, community artist, and curator. My personal creative practice has included a little bit of everything: photography, painting, ceramics, printmaking, installation, although I am now working more often than not in mosaic, resin, and dabbling in video and performance. My community arts practice looks at art as a vehicle for dialogue and catalyst for change, I will often facilitate workshops using my own artwork as the exemplar and encourage people to bring their own unique ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the work. My curatorial practice is where all of this comes together and I set out themes for artists to respond to and provide an opportunity for a community component so that within the exhibition many voices are represented and the artworks in dialogue with each other and the viewer begin to become narrative.
What are you currently working on?
I have just completed installation of an exhibition titled, Looking at Leadership, in partnership with the Gormley Gallery at Notre Dame of Maryland University where I am Guest Curator this year. The idea for the exhibition started to take shape last June as we moved through the continued challenges of 2020. Fighting for our lives against the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting for Black lives against the continued violence and terrorism that has deep roots in this country, and keeping pace with advancements in technologies that have impacted both of these ongoing issues really had me, and I think many of us, thinking about leadership.
Last week we had the virtual opening, but the exhibition is installed in real life in the gallery so there is also limited in-person viewing by appointment. There will also be virtual programming for deeper conversations with the artists. The schedule for that will be posted soon. Information about all of this can be found here: https://www.gormleygallery.com/looking-at-leadership.
Has your work shifted in response to the pandemic? How?
As a curator, for sure, the exhibition I curated in 2020, As it Should Be in partnership with the Modell-Lyric Education program and Gallery CA ended up being an online exhibition. The installation and opening was scheduled for March 2020. The week before we were supposed to install, it became clear that that was not going to happen. We had spent all this time planning, artists in some cases had created new work, so we had to do something and moving to an online platform was the best bet. Thinking through this new exhibition, how to ensure it was available online and creating virtual programming all became deeply embedded in the planning process. We were pretty sure that regardless, we would be able to install in the gallery, but always with this question about safety, and how people would see it even in the pandemic, and with limited in person interaction how we could make it available to a wider audience.
In my own artistic practice I have found my work to become much more introspective. Last summer, I completed a series of mosaic work that investigated key parts of my life and the ways that some of my foundational experiences have provided the base of who I am and how these things have constantly grown and changed as I and my life have transformed. Subjects I reflected on as I created this work included: religion/spirituality, art/creativity, pain/learning/growth, planting gardens, family, reading, justice work, love, and nature. I am now working on a series of resin pieces that combine lyrics from the song Suzanne and the stations of the cross. This work is really the most I have mined deeply into what has formed and shaped me. Since so much of my work has been about communication, working with others, and dialogue, this exploration into my own history and voice has been exciting.
In your opinion, what role does the creative process play in helping us confront our “new” reality?
I have found the creative process critical for our new reality. Making art has definitely been one way to process, recalibrate, and develop creative ideas for how we can transform our lives, institutions, and societies. I have also found that the creativity in other areas of my life, cooking, decorating my house, gardening, even social media are becoming much more important to me and I am using them as a way to stay connected. Even though we are not spending time together, I can check in on people by posting things on Instagram, or by calling another gardener friend to talk about how our gardens are doing or what we are planning for next season. In fact, as we headed into winter, when that long dark period began, what stopped the bit of panic I started feeling was looking at photos from my garden last year. Starting from just a bed of dirt and watching plants grow into a garden full of flowers and vegetables reminded me that the entire process is again already underway. I think that creative energy is like that, it has cycles and when we can remember that creating also requires downtime that is when we really start to be able to create some very beautiful things.
See more of Sarah's work here.