Q&A with Sarah Meyers Brent: Flowers, Repurposing Objects, and Working through Life’s Messes

Dripping Plant II, detail.
Dripping Plant II, detail.
Sarah and I met at the gallery on the first day of her exhibition, Salvaged Garden (open July 1 – August 2, 2015) to discuss her work. Although the Center Gallery is not a particularly large space, her works made it seem so, with an installation and two large paintings looking sharp as all get-out.

SDG: Artists such as Rebecca Louise Law take flowers into a sculptural profusion that fills the exhibition space. Your profusion is rooted into abstract painting, even the installations. Tell us about your relationship with painting, and what it has meant to you to expand into installation.

SMB: Ultimately, I want to create an exhibition that has everything. There’s something alluring about that blank rectangle, and I am a painter first, but I also like to see the different ways that the forms I create translate into space. I am working on a few sculptures now in the studio, using similar materials, and look forward to showing them in the near future.

SDG: Your installations have received positive media attention in the past few months, including coverage by Cate McQuaid in the Boston Globe and in Artscope Magazine by Sarah Kinkade. Other than the evident quality and beauty of your work, do you think that the issues you deal with, or perhaps they way you work are having a moment in our cultural imagination?

SMB: I work with repurposed, recycled materials. I love them not just because of the environmental message they contain, but also because they look so cool. I am likely one of many artists out there asking, why put new crap in the world if we can use the old stuff?

I think that STUFF has even more power than ever now because of all of the digital matter we process every day. Actual things really speak to us, their physicality. I love seeing the combinations I can create, and I almost feel like I’m cheating when I put things I’m working on up on the wall-wire, cloth, and floral material-and they look so appealing, organic, and plastic.

“Salvaged Garden” (left) and “Ode to Pregnancy” installed at Kingston Gallery

SDG: I appreciate it when smart, driven artists like yourself openly engage motherhood in their work. It enables viewers to align motherhood with creativity and productivity outside of running a household. What kind of feedback have you received about works such as Ode to Pregnancy or Mommy Love Me, in conjunction with their titles?

SMB: Painting is like therapy for me, and whatever I’m thinking about makes its way into my work. I had two ridiculously dramatic pregnancies, and I am still working through the emotions. My youngest is just seven months old, and the power of the sensations and what a mess babies are is still very much a reality for me.

Many different emotions come up when people view this work, both positive and negative. Teens LOVED the painting “Ode to Pregnancy” when it was exhibited at the Danforth Art Museum. They were curious about the process, i.e. “what IS that, a painting or a sculpture? How did she make it bulge like that?” People have asked whether it depicts a miscarriage, and that becomes a touchy subject. I use my artistic process to work through the mess of life, and ultimately arrive at a form that I find really beautiful, even if not in the traditional sense. That is the point of my art: to capture that simultaneous beauty and ugliness; growth and decay.

Detail,
Detail, “Salvaged Garden,” photo by Elevin Studios.

SDG: As you work, do you make decisions in an organic or intuitive response to the materials, or do you plan how things will go in advance? Do you work in a sketchbook before or while working on a new piece?

SMB: I work on paintings differently than on installations. My paintings evolve as I work, often turning out very differently from how they began. I respond to the materials and the forms as I go, and I like that. I work on the floor a lot, and the paint moves around as I work.

This installation at Kingston was initially designed for a different space, and since then I have reworked it for other spaces. I begin by sketching the overall forms, and as I build it, it grows and changes within the limitations of the space. The organic materials grow and move, and I fix them with wire, but they still do their own thing and surprise me.

SDG: Which artists inspire you? Could you recommend anyone’s work we should have a look at?

SMB: Expressionist artists such as Joan Snyder; particularly her collages and flowers.That is why I love the Danforth Art Museum. Also Joan Mitchell, Lynda BenglisFrank Auerbach, and Chaim Soutine. Contemporary artists I look at include Summer Wheat, Julia-Fernandez Pol, Cecily Brown, and Lauren Rice.

Sarah with her installation at Kingston Gallery.
Sarah with her installation at Kingston Gallery.
SDG: Where can we see your work next?

SMB: I am in the second annual pop-up exhibition at Flock Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire. The opening reception is Thursday, July 23 at 5:00pm – 8:00pm, and the exhibit runs July 23-28th.

I have a solo exhibition at the Danforth Art Museum in the main center space from March 6 to May 16, 2016. For that exhibition, I will reinstall an archway piece and create a site-specific piece for an alcove. I’ll have news about another group exhibition in the near future as well.

You can follow Sarah on twitter @sarahbrent and on her website: sarahartist.com.

Cate McQuaid’s review in today’s Boston Globe: Shows that paint outside the lines, and one that sticks to the script

Mary Bucci McCoy’s review in today’s Boston Globe along with Jered Sprecher and Lot F Gallery:

Shows that paint outside the lines, and one that sticks to the script

 By Cate McQuaid  Globe Correspondent   April 08, 2014

“Within” from Mary Bucci McCoy’s show “New Paintings,” at Kingston Gallery.

Two refreshing solo painting shows up now in adjacent galleries have much in common, but wander down wildly different paths.

Mary Bucci McCoy, at Kingston Gallery, and Jered Sprecher, at Steven Zevitas Gallery, make mostly small, mostly abstract works. Bucci McCoy’s delicately toned and textured paintings read like haiku: swift, elusive, ripe. Sprecher’s much denser, hotter-toned works display an exuberant virtuosity: He cuts up, sorts, and juggles forms; he layers veils of pigment. Small as his works are (the paintings on linen are 11-by-8 inches), they are deep, whereas Bucci McCoy’s are more wide open.

For the smaller paintings, the artist chopped up photocopies of his pigeon photo and made collages, which he re-created in oil paint. The birds can be discerned in only one of these works, “Pigeons,” in which we see a plump green silhouette, with the fluff of the wing feathers accentuated, but again the image seems incidental to the spark and flow of abstract painterly fireworks: down-rushing smears of gray and yellow, a narrow curtain of hot pink on one side.
Knowing the birds are there, if only in fragments, you might start to look for them. Is that the curve of a breast in “Invention of the Chair”? And maybe the stony face of the cliff along the bottom?

But this painting hinges on the thick, flat bars crossing one another, in black with great gaps of orange, over a changeable orange and red ground. The violently colliding bars have heft, but they vanish. There’s a broad passage of dun in the background at the top, a bland banner. Sky blue brushes lightly over the surface.

Sprecher plays tricks with space and surface; he makes bold marks and dainty ones. There’s so much going on in a relatively small space, it’s as if he’s deftly answering in paint the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Bucci McCoy offers a deep breath. Her painting “Another Grace” is simply a pale peach, near square. When I saw it I sensed vaguely that the corners were receding, and I got up close. The paint along the sides is infinitesimally yellower than it is in the middle. The surface gently puckers and wrinkles, like water in a breeze. A barely perceptible zigzag, perhaps just evidence of the paint drying, saws softly down the right side. Discovering these is like unearthing secrets.

Early in her career, Bucci McCoy worked with ceramics. Her paintings have the tactile quality of clay and the surprises afforded by kiln-fired glazes. “Within” is an oval, like a cameo, in powder blue. It’s matte flat, but the blue rises off the surface in one thick dollop. Below that hovers a blurry white dot, and to the right, a dot of black, veined and glittering like mica. Each of these reveals itself on a largely unsullied plane, little eruptions through a placid surface.

These paintings convey the unlikely combination of patience and spontaneity. Sometimes Bucci McCoy takes action: Her finger makes a deep gully down the center of the pristine white “Channel.” But sometimes it’s also just about seeing how the paint reacts. “Sanctuary” has a ground of tender terra-cotta, perfectly flat. A heady wash of aqua pours in from the upper right, like a wave rushing onto sand. The breathtaking contrasts are many: the colors, the textures, opacity versus mottled transparency, stillness versus movement. This artist achieves all that with startling economy.

Signs to celebrate cursive

“Its Virtue Is Immense: A Pre-Vinylite Tribute to Script Lettering,” a jaunty show at Lot F Gallery, suggests that thanks to dedicated practitioners around the world, the art of hand-painting signs is not dead. It’s on the decline, and has been since vinyl signs came on the scene in the 1980s. But this show isn’t merely about hand painting. It’s a cri de coeur on behalf of handwriting, and in particular cursive, which is being taught less the more technology dominates communication.

“Handwriting Is Handy,” Bob Dewhurst reminds us in one snappy sign. Kenji Nakayama, in “ABC Script,” layers a cursive alphabet in autumnal enamels and variegated gold leaf, which glimmers with coppers and blues. It’s eye-catching, to be sure, but it goes beyond signage into art, with its complex layering of letters.

Nakayama came to Boston from Japan to study at the Butera School of Art, one of the last academic outposts to teach hand-painting signs. It closed two years ago. The work in this show reminds us that there’s something rich in the human touch that can’t be replicated in a prepackaged font.

Mary Bucci McCoy: New Paintings

At: Kingston Gallery,

450 Harrison Ave., through April 27. 617-423-4113, www.kingstongallery.com

Jered Sprecher: Half Moon Maker

At: Steven Zevitas Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., 617-778-5265. http://www.stevenzevitasgallery.com

Closing date:
May 10

its Virtue is Immense: A Pre-Vinylite Tribute to Script Lettering

At: Lot F Gallery, 145 Pearl St., through April 25, 617-620-8452, http://www.lotfgallery.com

 

Cate McCuaid’s Critic’s Pick in The Boston Globe: Mary Bucci McCoy, First Friday reception this evening

Image

MARY BUCCI McCOY: NEW PAINTINGS Bucci McCoy’s small paintings hinge on the materiality of the paint, how it flows, how it dries, and how her spontaneous actions impinge upon it. Color matters, but the works are catalyzed by substance. Through April 27. Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave. 617-423-4113, http://www.kingstongallery.com

CATE MCQUAID

Image: Crux, acrylic on plywood, 9 x 7 x 1″, 2013