The paint in Sarah Meyers Brent‘s solo exhibition, currently at the Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst, appears to be alive. But is it dying? Growing – or decomposing? It overflows canvases and droops from walls like verdant life, but also shrivels and darkens with a suggestion of decay. The exhibition, Living Paint, includes the artist’s fascinating explorations of paint and mixed media that recently brought her a Walter Feldman Fellowship from the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston.
We asked Sarah about the exhibition, her process, and what’s next in her painting life.
What’s the process behind your Living Paint pieces?
I like my work to be constantly evolving and influenced by chance. For some of the more sculptural pieces like “Ode to Pregnancy” and “Spewing Plant,” I sketched out and constructed the large shapes. The color, and materials on the piece changed a lot, but the overall forms remained similar at the end. The original fabrics of “Ode to Pregnancy” were green, pink, and white, and I ended up paintings the whole thing yellow.
In most of the other works, I started with an initial idea, but the richness of the collage materials and the fluid nature of the paint, allowed the composition to change quite dramatically.
So how much of your installation at Hampden Gallery was improvised?
The final installation has the same feeling as the initial sketch, but looks quite different. It felt like an ever-changing process, but the constraints of the archway, and my concept of matter oozing and growing down the top, kept some similarities going.
The colors and shapes of the reused materials from my studio helped to shape the piece. I wanted to find a balance between hiding and showing the initial material: how natural vs. synthetic I wanted the piece to be. So, I kept covering it up and adding more materials.
The moments when I departed from the initial concept and ripped things down from the wall, ended up helping the piece the most. The overall tone of installation also varies from my initial sketch, having gone from all light to dark.
If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil?
Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall?
What are you currently reading?
“Trucks” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” Again and again.
I have an exhibit in April at the Arts and Business Council in the Midway Studios building as part of the inaugural Walter Feldman Fellowship Program. I am thinking about how to adapt some of my installations to their space.
Living Paint by Sarah Meyers Brent is on exhibit at Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst through 9/30.
Sarah Meyers Brent (sarahartist.com) maintains a studio practice at Joy Street Studios in Somerville. Her paintings have exhibited at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Danforth Art, Distillery Gallery, and TEDx Somerville, among others. Sarah was twice awarded residencies at The Vermont Studio Center where she received an Artist Resource Trust Grant and was a “25 at 25 Fellow.” Her paintings are part of the Liquitex Corporate Collection.
Images: paintings by Sarah Meyers Brent, LIVING PAINT INSTALLATION (2014), Acrylic, Foam, Fabric, Plants, and Mixed Media; MOMMY LOVES ME (2014), Paint Rags and Mixed Media on Canvas, 36×48 in; LIVING PAINT INSTALLATION detail; ODE TO PREGNANCY (2014), Acrylic and Cloth on Panel and Wall, 39×76 in.