Briefly describe the work you do.
The work I do is a reflection on life, communication, responsibility and love. I appropriate text from music, literature, film, conversations and create visual pieces that capture the heart of what is being said. I also work to question language as a means of communication, how differences in the way that we speak and hear can often challenge true connection.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
I have always wanted to pursue a creative career. Early on it was as a writer, as I got older and found I could draw, it became work in the visual arts. By working with text in a visual form I have found a way to incorporate both my love of words and art into a single process.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up on Long Island, although most people cannot tell as I am missing the accent. My parents ran a group home so we lived in a house with eight developmentally disabled adults. This environment was amazing and I learned a tremendous amount about how people’s experiences of the world are vastly different. It also taught me how beautiful the world is when we are able to embrace difference and act in a way that shares space and power.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I have moved through a variety of mediums in my career. In my undergraduate work I began as a photography major, then transferred to the studio program where I painted, took sculpture classes (although most of my sculptures were still flat) and ended up somewhere in between drawing and conceptual work. In graduate school I studied community arts, which turned my focus toward questions of authorship, authority and value in the arts. I remain committed to acknowledging the responsibility of the artist in social change. Many artists are privileged with time, space and support to hone their voices and have what they create put on a pedestal and viewed in a sacred space. How do artists use this experience to create space for others? Especially those who have had their voices silenced?
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 do believe in being inspired. I find inspiration all around me, in books, music, film and in conversation with my colleagues, friends and family. What motivates me to get into the studio is the need to communicate. My creative process is a means of reflection and communication. Creating provides the opportunity to think critically, find meaning in my life and work and express my truth to others.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
In addition to making, I also curate. All the artists that have been a part of my exhibitions have inspired me. One of the greatest joys in the work that I do is putting a question into the world through an exhibition proposal and seeing all of the thoughtful, beautiful, creative answers that artists return through their work for the exhibition. Paula Phillips and Colin Campbell are two artists that have participated in many of my exhibitions and who were the inspiration for Baltimore From Many Perspectives that I curated in 2013. Both Paula and Colin as artists and as people are great inspirations to me. Oasa DuVerney is a close friend, collaborator and talented artist who provides motivation, someone to bounce ideas off of and whose incredible drawings, paintings and other work I always find inspiring. Other artists and writers that I have never met, but who provide guidance are: James Baldwin, Bertice Berry, bell hooks, Miranda July, Thomas Hirschhorn, Henry Miller, Alice Walker and so many more I could not possibly fit them all here.
I am also always influenced by the young people I work with in my youth and community work. Their ideas, energy and enthusiasm has had a great impact on my life. They have also been the starting point for projects such as, Ms. Sarah Learns to Step.
I am grateful for all I have worked with.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I really enjoy attending the theater, seeing movies, listening to music. When I find time, I like to swim and be out in the sun.
Sarah McCann is a Baltimore based community artist and independent curator. She partners with individuals and organizations to facilitate projects that use existing systems of behavior to form deeper human relationships and create opportunities for reflection and growth. She is currently the Executive Director at Baltimore Clayworks. She has taught arts programming with the Creative Alliance, Wide Angle Youth Media and the Youth Dreamers. Her most recent curatorial endeavor Experience Transformation: The Impact of Clay was exhibited at the Creative Alliance in May/June 2014. Sarah has facilitated public and collaborative projects and looks forward to continuing her work in Baltimore and other urban centers.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.