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An Interview With The Painter Sarah Coote
June 14, 2017
Sarah Coote is an artist from Philadelphia, PA. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 and MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2017. She has shown in solo and group exhibition at galleries including: Fjord Gallery, Page Bond Gallery, New Boone and Vox Populi among others. In 2015 she was an artist member at Fjord Gallery in Philadelphia, and this past year she directed and ran Bruce Martin Gallery, a one room project space in Richmond, VA.
Candid Magazine: Having directed project space Bruce Martin Gallery, how has this experience changed your stance as an artist?
Sarah Coote: Directing Bruce Martin Gallery was a way for me to fulfill my desire to collaborate with other artists and designers and set up a space of gathering in my house. In the studio I work with found materials and collaging, organizing and arranging parts. Curating comes naturally, but to work with the artists as a facilitator of the exhibitions was a way to escape my cave. Most of the artists were able to visit and respond to the room in person. It became a chance to reconnect with friends as well as work with artists I’ve admired from afar.
Running the gallery reaffirmed my belief in bringing people together in a noncommercial experimental space. The website is a crucial element to the project and presents an access point (360 view image) for those who don’t live in Richmond. I am looking forward to pursuing more collaborative projects inside and outside of the studio now that I’ve moved out of the house that hosted Bruce Martin Gallery. How the project may morph into new rooms is currently on my mind.
CM: Who, or what, are your primary influences, both inside the art world and out?
SC: I just read Bluets by author Maggie Nelson, which was just lovely – poetry is an influence in my pursuit of life pleasures. Touching the surface and soft but pulsing tensions between things are what I’m attracted to, fragmentation and nonlinear time. Authors including Eileen Myles, Kathy Acker and Claudia Rankine are largely influential, particularity for how their writing weaves in and out of time reflecting the autobiographical and realities they are presenting. Visual artists including Karen Kilimnik, Henry Taylor, Nicola Tyson, Dorothy Iannone, Gillian Wearing, Deana Lawson and Eduard Vuillard among so many others are influential.
I watch a lot of television, particularly dramas, and role play is exciting to me, acting and performing in a body. I am influenced by the performance of self on social media platforms and in profiles – I have many profiles online to present to particular audiences. Considering how one elects to fracture their identity for multiple pursuits has always been of interest, and I am constantly informed by my own experience and the observation of others doing so.
CM: The anonymous faces and figures in your work are fleshy and corporeal but generally do not have any distinctive features. To what extent are your works anecdotal and autobiographical?
SC: My query is on facade and masking, covering to reveal the uncovered. Controlling the ways in which we see the body while also looking through the body. The research always starts in the personal. I source most of my images from my cell phone photo library and from pornography, literature and mythology. Where the departure starts depends on the project and the work, but I would say that it is always autobiographical to a leveling extent.
For instance, July 2014 is a painting of a man’s back as he rests on a fence. The image is taken from a photo of an ex-lover. All of the grief and learning afforded during that relationship are expressed in the marks on his back. In July 2014 we broke up. My intimate relationship with him allowed me to take the photo used as source imagery for the painting. The observation and viewpoint are heightened through the actions of cropping the image, zooming in on areas of the body which are afforded to the gaze of a lover, in the morning during dressing, or in moments of leisure.
CM: If you could exhibit your work with any other visual artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
SC: It would be amazing to meet Artemisia Gentileschi and show with her, or collaborate on a piece. I love to meet and work with Dorothy Iannone. I would like to bump into an amazing writer who I don’t know yet, work with them and practice our different languages of observation together. That plan also applies to a musician, fashion designer and maker of miniatures.
CM: Your paintings and collages both display a wonderful array of textures – have you used any experimental techniques to develop them?
SC: In my studio I have a collection of plastics, fabrics, beads, paint and other decor that I’ll respond to as I’m working on a surface. I work very quickly with the paintings on canvas, and slowly and methodical on the sponges (Porous Paintings). Sometimes the sponges serve as sketches for the larger paintings, such as Porous Painting (French Tips) informed formal marks in Licking the Back.
I collect images of lovers, window displays, alters and vessels shaped like bodies or with body parts. In the work, I respond to my material and build the body of the work – the density and weight of it. The acrylic paint works as an adhesive for additive coverings. The sponges are wonderful surfaces and objects to work on and through. I soak them in different mediums to adjust their hardness and work accordingly with beads, charms and other accoutrements.
By Issey Scott