Briefly describe the work you do.
I am currently the Artist-in-Residence at an Masonic Temple in downtown Portland, Maine. I am working on a massive sculptural installation that explores the influence of the feminine within the Masonic Order, as it intersects specifically with the architecture and history of the Congress Street Temple. For this project, I am creating hundreds of handmade, translucent orbs that will be suspended throughout key ritual rooms of the Temple. I am also sculpting a 20-foot-diameter bees nest to be suspended in the Eastern Star Hall, the former ritual room of the “women’s strain” of the Masonic Order.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born in Portland, Maine, but lived in many different parts of the United States before returning to make Maine my home. I was raised without much money, but my parents consistently encouraged me to find and pursue that which really activated my passions. I was also taught to follow my own path, regardless of outside influence or opinion. For the moment, this has led me to set up a residency program in a Masonic Temple where I often find myself the only person working within the secluded Temple of an ancient secret society.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I actually AM that solitary artist toiling away in my studio, as often as I can afford to be! The enormity of my current project also has me working from home quite a bit, writing grants, working with images, and conducting research. I’ve had to develop a strong working relationship with the members of the local Masonic Order, which has been an interesting departure from my previous practice. I also find myself doing significantly more busy-work than would be romantically envisioned. Securing funding, writing about the work, researching different conceptual paths, working with city officials, … these are all essential aspects of the studio process that have very little to do with the actual physical act of making “in the studio.”
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I feel particularly responsible for doing something in my life as an artist that ensures other artists have it easier than I feel I do/did. It can be a real struggle to consistently make and fund work. In the most basic way, most people work to make money. Artists have to make money to work. I find myself trying to figure out ways to challenge the system and structures through which art is created and shared. That passion for altering the current ‘set-up’ came initially as a surprise, but is now something I feel very deeply.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Inevitably, I make the best work in the morning, before I allow all the other demands of the day to take over. That being said, I work fairly consistently, around the clock, whenever I can manifest time. The challenge is that most of my work these days involves writing for grants, research and what feels like a bizarre amount of administrative tasks. I literally dream of the days when I can just sit down with an inspiring set of materials and create.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
The last five years have brought about an intense shift in my work from photographic pieces to massive, intensely researched and thought-through installations. I’ve also gone from working very privately to engaging hundreds of people just to get a piece made. Within that shift in practice, the concepts I’m exploring have deepened, remaining “the same,” but pushing further.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Yes. (Please don’t make me list them.)
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I’ve been the executive director of a non-profit fine arts foundation for the past seven years. I am the President of another newly founded non-profit organization that will promote and preserve the work of brilliant, yet underrepresented artists. I’m involved in this work because I’m invested in helping other artists succeed.
Sarah Bouchard is a multidisciplinary artist and curator. My artwork spans the mediums of photography, painting, film, sculpture, installation, and collage. I am currently the artist-in-residence at an active Masonic Temple in downtown Portland, Maine, where I am creating a large multi-media installation that explores the presence of the feminine within the Masonic Order, as it intersects specifically with the architecture and history of the Congress Street Temple. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree from Maine College of Art, a BA in Studio Art from the University of Maine at Farmington, and a BA in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University.
As an artist, I am concerned with exploring and reviving neglected entities, whether they be psychological spaces, human beings, or the crumbling aspects of material reality. I find meaning and intrigue in overlooked places. I am primarily an introspective artist, working with my own inner realm as inspiration and guide through the process of making. I am thoroughly taken with anything involving the use of my hands, making materials integral to anything I do. I am moved by texture and pattern, as well as subtle shifts in color, light and sound. I am equally invested in unlikely juxtapositions that bring about a shift in perception.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.