May 31, 2011
Paintings and Drawings by Sarah Pearce

Sarah Pearce

Paintings and drawings by Sarah Pearce will be on display starting June 2 through the 29th here in the Meredith Nicholson House. The exhibit will feature oil paintings and charcoal drawings that explore the living organism as a landscape and the landscape as an organism.

Pearce’s artist statement explains her approach to art and the world around us.

My paintings deal directly with aspects of the physical world–the land, the sea, plants, rocks, ice, animals–that are part of a fully human story about living in a shared world. I am trying to convey what it is like to be one piece of the materiality of a world composed of crystals and compounds and cells and photons and ever-smaller nameable particles, all in constant motion. We are just one species within a continuum of organisms struggling, flourishing, and dying in a landscape of mysterious forces. I show nature and culture as intertwined.

We can observe other creatures, even whole ecologies, as a source of information, to gain a wealth of data (visual and otherwise.) But ultimately it their alienness, their unknowability, that fires our imaginations. We can never truly know the world that a creature moves through, even if we are dependent on it for our survival. Our survival is interlaced with the organisms on the planet, but our ability to truly understand them is limited. We actually have to use our imaginations to claim our sympathy with and for them.

When I paint an image of something in nature, I can observe directly, and I can try to paint, as Paul Cezanne would have put it, “from the retina.” And, much like a scientist, I can identify moving parts and learn to predict basic behaviors. But I find that, ultimately, it is in my nature, as a human being, to want to dwell partly on the unknowable aspects of what I observe; to embroider on top of that visual experience with many other concepts that swarm in my mind around that image. I can’t help but move towards my imagination to tell a story, or create a symbol. I think this is innately how Homo Sapien Sapien behaves. She creates metaphors, mental structures and new connections through the process of inscribing an image. I think we’ve been doing that for 40,000 years. I’m no exception.

Sometimes a feeling takes precedence over a representational image in a painting, and an image evolves into abstraction or pure paint. And yet, every painting I do is inspired by a specific environment, object, or animal. In this show, I explore the way a simple organism – like an abalone shell – can become a landscape, and the way the landscape can resemble an organism.

I take my inspiration from Melville’s Moby Dick, marine nature photography (Jacques Cousteau especially), Song Dynasty landscape paintings, J.M.W. Turner, Copley, Lee Krasner, arctic imagery, and also, when possible, from direct observation of natural objects or phenomena.

For a more complete archive of my work, or information about pricing, please visit my website at:
Sarah Pearce (Indiana University MFA 2008) lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

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