by online journal Anti-Heroin Chic
August 6th, 2016
view original post here
AHC: Can you tell us a bit about your process, themes & inspirations?
Sarah: I am trained as a printmaker though for the past seven years I’ve been creating collages with discarded patterned security envelopes that I collect from my own life and the lives of friends, family and strangers interested in giving the material a life beyond it’s intended use. I began working with the material in 2008, when I worked an office job that required me to sort the mail. While opening the mail I noticed the large variety of intricate patterns used to line the envelopes and was spurred to create art out of this abundant, free material.
My first security envelope collages were small and depicted scenes of dense grasses and flora that echoed the material’s use as a camouflage for private and sensitive documents like invoices and statements. As I collected piles envelopes I learned there are hundreds of patterns and devised a system of sorting them by color, tone and pattern. As I developed my technique and repertoire of envelopes I created landscapes that became increasingly elaborate and dystopian. Some images depict the natural environment rejecting current earthly circumstances in exchange for an alternative. I conjure images of mass evacuations of plant-life: an entire forest orchestrates a location swap with an other forest from the beyond, a body of water breaks apart as it pulls itself into the sky as an aqueous rainbow, leaves and trees soar or are lifted away by alien beams of light.
My latest body of work includes traditional office imagery like drop ceilings, cubicles and uninspired décor. Offices are designed to maximize efficiency, indifferent to the cost of human comfort and happiness. The cubicle in particular has become a symbol of unfulfilling, monotonous, paper-pushing work so I make images that infiltrate these sterile spaces with vegetation. The result represents a fantasy in which the material of the reliable, boring disappointments of life, are transformed into a means of escape.
My collages call attention to the intricate patterns of the envelopes that are designed to be unseen. The patterns in this overlooked material are surprisingly delicate and beautiful, reminiscent of Japanese decorative chiyogami craft papers. I’m encouraging my audience to ponder whether other items in their lives have hidden beauty or could have a second life before headed to the landfill.
AHC: In some of your work you’ve explored themes of nature vs. imposed, constructed orders, and, also it seems, notions of precarization, both societal & ecological, could you talk a bit about this?
Sarah: For many, the Sisyphean task of paying monthly bills is a chaotic process that results in a precarious, financial house of cards. Reoccurring expenses enter one’s life in an orderly manner, and paying those bills can be automated, yet the system can spin wildly out of control with the introduction of one unexpected expense that disturbs people’s fiscal balance. To an extent, the environment is more adept at absorbing shocks to the system. In my collages, nature and entropy triumphs.
AHC: The Curbside Object Status Tags are fascinating, can you tell us a bit about this practice & what drew you to document it as you have? It also seems to fit other aspects of your work, such as ethical concerns for recycling the materials used in the creative process, is there a connection there for you in that?
Sarah: Curbside Object Status Tags are printed manila shipping tags that facilitate the smooth operation of the informal sidewalk gift economy. Those who place free objects on the curb for other people to pick up, may tie a tag to the object and indicate the condition of the object to people by ticking the appropriate box on the tag. Condition choices range from Works Perfectly to Has Valuable Parts.
I created Curbside Object Status Tags to reduce the inefficiency that incomplete knowledge produces in trash-picking. Leaving objects on the curb for others to take is an environmentally sound behavior that helps divert objects from landfill. I noticed a problem with this practice that needed solving: people who consider picking up an object off the street cannot always discern the condition of said object, especially in the case of electronic items. I have passed by desirable objects because I did not want to risk dragging them home, up two flights of stairs only to find they didn’t work once plugged in. Some people take the time to tape a hand-scribbled note to the object, but most do not.
There is a subset of the population that delights in both discovering excellent street finds, and placing objects out for a new owner to happen upon. When I place an object on the street I spend a moment fantasizing about its future owner and moment of joy they might feel when they find the thing in question. Our motivations may be encouraged by frugality, generosity, concern for the environment or more pragmatic reasons such as a speedy solution to a sudden purge. The coolest thing I found on the street was a pair of perfectly working Mission brand speakers. The coolest thing I put out was a set of bicycle aerobar extensions.
The tags have been popular with users who feel they legitimize the practice of trash-picking and remove some of the stigma of dragging things off the street into our homes. Users of the tags send me photos accompanied with an anecdote about the object or about how quickly it was picked up.
Although more of a utilitarian tool than “art”, I absolutely consider my tags as dovetailing with my art practice. I want people to pause and consider the stuff they throw out.
If you’d like some tags for free send an email to Sarah firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address.
AHC: Do you have any upcoming exhibits or projects you’d like to tell people about?
Sarah: In the winter of 2017 I will mount a solo exhibition at The Courthouse Gallery in the city of Lake George in upstate New York. I am making new collages made with envelopes and unsolicited credit card offers. As I sketch out images in preparation for the show I can tell you the resulting work will be more colorful and abstracted, yet have similar themes I have been working with.