Briefly describe the work you do.
I am interested in creating visual and physical manifestations of the rules, scaffolds and supports that underpin human existence. I focus on making invisible scaffolds explicit by highlighting the importance of corporeal scaffolds in my sculptural work. I see a direct allegorical relationship between the scaffolded scenarios I create and the biological, social and psychological processes that are the invisible scaffolding supporting human functioning.
People are bad at paying attention to the unrecognized factors that guide our actions in our daily lives. For instance, we are more likely to understand another person’s behavior as resulting from internal characteristics than resulting from a particular situation. Why did that person litter? Maybe they are slovenly pigs, or maybe the overflowing trashcans and dirty courtyard told them on an implicit level, “It’s ok, go ahead, others have done it.” These mental, physical and social scaffolds can have innocuous, comic, and sometimes even grave repercussions.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
When I was in the third grade I took classes with a local Washington D.C. artist. By high school I was helping her with her studio practice and classes. Around the same time that I was introduced to art I was diagnosed with dyslexia. As I progressed into grade school, the range of spatial possibilities that each letter retained wreaked havoc with my ability to read and write. My early experiences as a dyslexic lead me to be interested in the hidden forces that guide our behavior on a day to day basis (social influences, neuronal architecture, learned behaviors, etc.)
After graduating from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in psychology, I taught students with learning differences at the American School in Casablanca, Morocco while simultaneously exploring Moroccan ceramic traditions. In 2006 I was awarded a Fulbright Postgraduate Fellowship to conduct neuropsychology research on dyslexia with a prominent scientist in Milan, Italy. While conducting this research I also enrolled at Accademia di belle Arti di Brera in Italy. While taking classes and making work at Brera, I began to seriously contemplate pushing my artistic work full time.
However, It was not until 2008, after conducting psychology research in the US for two years, that I made the decision to become an artist. I came to the realization that it was through art and not psychology that I wanted to explore the intangible forces that scaffold human behavior and thought. I graduated from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University with an MA in 2013. I am currently teaching sculpture at Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
When I was a child I spent many summers in Rome and in Tuscany, the places where my mother grew up before emigrating to the United States from Italy in the late 70s. On walks with my grandmother in Rome, I could not help but notice the visual layering of centuries of history. One could see medieval churches covered in baroque adornments, wedged in between fading 1970s apartments. Since childhood, I have traveled extensively, living for extended periods of time in Italy, Paris and Morocco, witnessing first hand how architecture and the accumulation of every day debris can lend a physical presence to history. In my work, I draw upon this awareness, recombining recognizable cultural, architectural and historical imagery from different eras and cultures. In this manner, the layering of visual information becomes a stand-in for the temporally fleeting passage of human events.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
My work originates out of a cyclical process of accumulation and synthesis. I make sense of information first by arranging the objects I create and then assigning them a meaning through organization. I then obscure the categories I have created through recombination, which enables me to endlessly play with the objects’ associative meanings.
Using space and physical objects as a shorthand for my thoughts has been something I have done since childhood. Instead of writing down homework, I would choose a rock in the school courtyard and strategically place it in a pocket of my backpack to help me remember assignments. By endowing objects with meaning and situating them in space, I figure out what I deem important. Thus my work stems from a materially and spatially based system of grappling with information. With visual information ever more accessible, due to digital technology, I see the digestion of information, not the gathering, as the challenge of my particular socio-cultural moment.
I both relish and resist the onslaught of visual information, taking pleasure in the transition from reduction to synthesis and back again. This journey enables me to appreciate the micro and macro simultaneously, reaching an intuitive understanding of the whole work as well as its component parts through accumulation and synthesis. This experience is similar to examining a human hair under a microscope. Looking through the eye piece the hair is full of bumps, imperfections and accumulated segments, while viewing it with the naked eye one sees a smooth, whole filament. Through the process of amassing detailed parts, my finished piece allows me to see both the whole and the elements that create the whole.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
I find inspiration through exploration. I try to travel as much as possible and I am a voracious reader. I relish encountering and grappling with new processes, materials and ideas. I enjoy exploring new visual/conceptual territory by bringing together previously dispirit images and concepts. For me there is nothing better then the process of drawing ideas or objects together, making connections and creating a whole that is greater that the sum of its parts.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
The artists that have influenced my artistic development are Tim Roda, Heringa/Van Kalsbeek and Tatiana Trouve (living) and Pina Bauch, William Blake and Eva Hess (nonliving).
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
When I am not making art I like to take walks, read, dance and watch peoples interactions.
Born in Washington, DC to Italian/Canadian parents, Sara Parent-Ramos’s work stems from her international background and her work experience in the field of psychology. Since graduating from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, she has been the recipient of a State University of New York Thayer Fellowship and a Cite International des Arts, Paris Residency Fellowship. Sara received a Fulbright scholarship to Italy in 2005 and a Graduate Student Fellowship from the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts in 2013. Most recently she has participated in exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art, San Angelo,TX and the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh PA. She is in currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Art at Saint Edwards University, in Austin Texas.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.