“That’s when I started creating art that I was ok with, I wasn’t being anyone else. I wasn’t trying anything, or being creative for someone. It wasn’t intention, just pure art. I was ok with no one ever seeing it, buying it, or liking it. I have found that more people like my work because there is no motive.”
Introduction by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Interview by Theo Constantinou
Images provided by Sarah Reynolds
Sarah Reynolds is blessed with the lightheartedness and spontaneity of a child. However, she holds the regality and experiences of a grown woman who has seen both difficulties and splendor enhance her life. Sarah found artwork to be a solution to crises without the conflict of human interaction. Being able to use negativity to form visually enticing, physically beautiful, and emotionally relieving images excises the fact that nothing can be understood without acknowledging both the good and the bad. For Sarah the metamorphosis into an artist showed her how to be an adult without tracing the footsteps of those before her. She found success in innovation with hopes to pass onto those who see her art the importance of slowing down.
This question is related to an essay I read about a man training students in some rare form of martial arts before he dies. Do you think when we go to school, or acquire teachers for other aspects of learning whether they be a parent or hired music teacher, that we are only fulfilling their legacy? Do you think the same goes for those who simply inspire us? And if we are only living in other’s legacies at what point do we become individuals, and when or how do we influence others? Will originality eventually run out?
I want to address the question of originality running out first. I think as long as you’re not mimicking something that you see, learn, or read about then it can be original. I’ve found that a lot of times I’ve created, said, or written something and later someone tells me someone else said it, or asks where I read that, or state that it looks like something else. A lot of people want to look at something that they recognize. To them what you’ve created is not as original but what you created is original because you aren’t really mimicking or imitating anything else so it didn’t come from them. It is original to you. About teachers, I feel that a lot of times people become teachers or fulfill needs by accident. It’s not necessarily fulfilling a legacy. People learn unintentional lessons that are given from their daily lives, or things that are not part of their practice. I find that a lot of the people I’m inspired by, or that I learn from, aren’t people that I’ve sat in class with, listen to, or have allocated time with. I don’t think a lot of people set out to become teachers. I don’t think that a lot of people acknowledge that they’ve learned something from someone. It’s interesting because you may impact someone, or I may have grown from someone in my life, but I haven’t gone back and acknowledged it but it’s there. So whether or not you’re fulfilling a legacy, well I don’t think that really matters, or if that’s an end goal. Do you think?
So whether or not you’re fulfilling a legacy, well I don’t think that really matters, or if that’s an end goal. Do you think?
Legacy, I think about that all of the time actually. I have to leave a positive legacy. I don’t want my kid, or the people around me to say that Theo was some egotistical asshole. I never want to live with regrets that will affect my legacy. I am aware of my actions that will be remembered by people living with me now and later. It is being aware of how I act, that is part of my legacy.
I guess I was thinking about it differently. I agree with what you’re saying in terms of making your mark, your legacy, and how you pose yourself and act. But, I don’t set out to teach anyone anything. I would love to do that, I would love to make an impact someone and have a positive influence on their life, but that is not the intention when I start a conversation. If it happens naturally, is more subconscious, then I’m grateful that it did happen. And I’m glad that it happened after. So would there be one theme in the world that was original, that spurred everything from it?
Yeah but that’s some crazy philosophical conversation. We live in such a world that everything is built on something else. I was trying to read Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time but even just that it’s all built on these other theories like Einstein’s theory was built on Newton’s and that was built on something else and it’s a continuation of one original idea at some point.
But I think that there is something really nice about believing in originality, it’s like religion. Everybody is original, you are only you, but that’s more for individuality than originality. But when I was answering this question I was thinking in terms of art.
But when I was answering this question I was thinking in terms of art.
Then it’s all original in a way because it’s all just coming out of your brain. It’s in that moment, that brush stroke is never going to be the same.
Exactly. One of the pieces you just saw (in my studio) that looks like a puff of black smoke originated from a dream where a figure appeared several times. I woke up, frightened. I didn’t know what it was. If it was smoke, a figure, or a ghost, or a storm and I called one of my friends who suggested that I draw it to see if materializing it made it go away. I drew it. Afterwards, someone told me it looked like pubic hair, and another person said it was a puff of smoke. To me that piece was original because it came from my brain, my thoughts translating on paper. It didn’t even look like what I saw in the dream but when people started identifying what it was it wasn’t original anymore.
People were trying to latch it onto other ideas. To them it was something else. People who believe they are original, or that they can be original are people who still have fire and keep on producing.
Your quest and setting yourself apart from everyone else is the most important thing whether it is really original or not. It’s like growing up when they tell you there is no Santa Clause. On that level I always want to believe as a child in an imaginative way of beauty that exists because I seek originality in individuality. It goes back to what you said. It would be unoriginal if you did what that lady said and put a yellow brush stroke through it. That is not you. That’s unoriginal.
It would have been her idea. Without the brush stroke it’s original.
I was at the Underline gallery recently to see a show for a friend of mine, Jordan Sullivan. He had words inscribed over an image of Hitler’s home in Germany before it got bombed. His grandmother took the photos and he created art with it. It said, “Are we writing to erase our angels with us? Is it better to remember to forget to forgive, or to never have lived at all?” How does that make you feel? This is coming from a collection of pieces called Natural History about his own understanding of his parent’s relationship, his grandparents, and World War II and all this imagery.
That’s pretty heavy. I think the last part about never living at all is just neglecting the fact that with life there is a lot of pain and that you’re going to encounter very heavy and harsh things. You’re going to have to forgive people, and hurt people. I don’t know if he was speaking directly to the Holocaust, Hitler, or people that suffer, but there are people in life who would rather to have not existed than to have had to suffer through things. To forget and forgive and never have to deal with it, neglecting that it ever happened, I think a lot of people do in general. Instead of ripping the band-aid off, or ever encountering conflict and hardships, they kind of gloss through things. They never really become emotional, or let it seep in. When you actually let someone come into your life and tap into your soul, it’s hard, you’ve made yourself vulnerable to them. That statement taps into different moments in my life, and parallels my maturity level because some things are easier to deal with than others. Some people that are involved in those situations may be worthy of you actually facing what happened and some people aren’t. I feel like this is trying to get me to talk about an experience that has been hard to reflect on.
When the quote says, “Are we writing to erase our angels,” I interpret it to say: do we erase those angels, or are we being aware of the demons? Then saying, “Is it better to remember to forget to forgive, or to have never lived at all,” I say to myself that I will live my life in a way where I try to forget but I forgive and am grateful for having lived every single moment of it even if I’m trying to erase some not so good memories. Are these things that your interpret in your art?
But aren’t they two different things? Forgetting to forgive is like the middle thing, and prior is like acknowledging but not experiencing. I feel for the first time in my life I actually feel like myself, feel alive. Prior to where I am now it was a learning process, or “forgetting to forgive” what was trying to hold me back in my life. Or passing judgment on what I really wanted to do with my life, trying to force me into being someone I wasn’t. I guess when you do find happiness in what you do and are passionate about your craft you have to put all the other thoughts out of your mind. That infuses with your energy and subconscious and it kind of takes over. When I do art I’m translating something, not done from anything, but I experience waves of emotions like anger, happiness, and sadness. I’m not conscious of where it’s coming from. Maybe my art would change if I did address individuals in my life, or things that could have hindered me from this journey that I’m on now. I’m not that conscious of that, or reflective on where that involves me working. Sometimes I’m pretty childlike, I want to think everything is rainbows and butterflies and that people want the best for me. I feel that a lot of people think otherwise and become stifled by those thoughts. It makes me upset that people wouldn’t want to think of your growth as an artist or your own happiness.
But then what happens, what makes you an adult? I guess that’s what makes children beautiful.
Someone once told me that when I walked into a room I approached people with a childlike spirit thinking that everyone likes me, took me seriously, and wanted to hear what I had to say. They also told me that I’m not always taken very seriously and people do have thoughts about the way I look, their intentions aren’t necessarily pure, or positive when they are looking at me or speaking to me. Then I started trying to figure out what people were thinking, how they were reacting. I became insecure in trying to analyze. In a way I was trying to do it to them too, criticizing them and their intentions. During this period, I started working on my first oil painting, ever. It was like fleshing everything out without having to speak about it. That’s when I embraced people for what they were and not for the good or the bad. The fact that people weren’t people, but judgment, or kindness and I had to stop thinking about what kind of things people were. I settled in with being ok with who I was and what I had to say. I embraced the fact that not everyone is going to like me or want to listen to what I have to say. I stopped trying to make people like me and giving up when I know I need to stop talking, walk away and realize that not everyone is good for me, not everyone is meant to be in my life for a long period of time. Let go. That’s when I started creating art that I was ok with, I wasn’t being anyone else. I wasn’t trying anything, or being creative for someone. It wasn’t intention, just pure art. I was ok with no one ever seeing it, buying it, or liking it. I have found that more people like my work because there is no motive.
In the Dhammapada there is the phrase, “As rain does not break through a well-thatched house, passion will not break through a well-reflecting mind.” How do you define passion? Do you believe that to live through passion is to live carelessly? Is it more important to reflect or use passion? Or are both somewhat interrelated?
I don’t think that you can provide a framework for passion, or guide it. I don’t think it’s careless either. I don’t think passion comes from being thoughtless in your actions or what you’re doing with yourself, your mind, or your body. However, I do think that a lot of passion comes from being spontaneous and being willing to take risks, and being willing to hit rock bottom and really accept that it’s amazing whether it comes from giving someone a chance, or taking a job you would have never considered. Trying something new. Four years ago I could have never planned where I am now. I could of never said that my love of art was going to get me here, or my intelligence was going to get me into this school. A lot of people lose their passion in providing that strong house in a framework and they neglect that passion, let it dissipate. It takes it back to providing a perfect life, a black and white life, and it’s very easy to do. That is writing the blueprint of your life, doing what is deemed correct in society, fitting in. It is becoming a spoke in a giant wheel and acting how you’re expected to act. I feel there are certain people that have been blessed with being raised by families that encourage their passions, or their spontaneity, or curiosity. I think that curiosity drives passion, spontaneity drives passion. I have found things that spark my artistic interests or passions. They go hand in hand. You can’t lean towards one way or the other too much. On one hand you’re going to kill your passion. You can lose your interest in so many distractions. Maybe I’m being too literal, but when I have no responsibilities, no end goal in sight many other things can drive me and pull me into another direction, but here is always an idea of what I would like to achieve. My passion may evolve but it might get dispersed in other directions. I am from a very small town in Texas where everybody is white, Christian, or Baptist, and they get married at 22, they go to college, get a house with a backyard, have kids, and the kids do the same thing. If you go outside of that line you’re rebelling, you’re neglecting what you’re supposed to do. For most people, life is black and white.
I let my art speak for itself, but obviously I’m a huge part of my artwork and people are going to meet me. I’m hopeful that I can be involved in the process because I love speaking to people about my artwork and I hope that when people see me talk about my art and see me work that it makes them love my artwork more and the way I look less. I understand there are benefits to being an attractive, young woman. It’s up to me to hold myself accountable, to not use that over people, but to not forget it. I think I have to recognize when someone is giving me an opportunity for solely that reason. If it is just a small part, I’m willing to deal with that, and just win them over with what I am able to do with my art, with my skill. I’m banking on that because eventually I’m going to be old and unattractive, looks fade. I want to be in front of the buyers, the galleries, and talk to people. I spoke with someone the other day who said that most art collectors don’t want to speak to the artist, they don’t want to meet artists, they just want to buy a work because they are able to interpret the artist’s intentions, or what they believe to be their intentions. If the artist is there it might sway them from identifying with it. I don’t know if that was this person’s way of saying I would distract from the work, or take away from the seriousness of the art world. When I was in art class in college I remember my art teacher didn’t take me seriously. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t able to articulate the intentions of my artwork, or he just didn’t like my artwork, or me. Most of the kids in the class were older than me and they were very “artsy”. I was only a sophomore. I was still very girly and I dressed up for class. Once I showed up in heels. I was very passionate about what I turned in, but when I stood up to talk about my project he never took me seriously. There was a girl in my class that I really liked, I loved her artwork, and he loved her. She had this short pixie haircut. I freaked on my last day in his class, and I went to a salon and got all of my hair chopped off. I thought that people would take me seriously if I didn’t have long hair that wasn’t sexy or whatever. It didn’t change anything. It didn’t feel right, it felt immature and impulsive. I attracted a different audience, a different group of people so it was totally stupid on my part.
So what’s the lesson?
That I have to be respectful of myself, be aware of someone’s intentions and be able to recognize the situation I’m in and use my image positively.
What’s the lesson for other women in the same situation whether in finance, art, or anything that’s dominated mainly by men?
I think after awhile when you’re treated a certain way it’s easy to start feeding the fact that you’re beautiful, that for some reason you were born attractive. You start thinking that you should not be you, but once you start to resent the way you look you’re not loving yourself, or embracing who you are. Then regardless of who you are and how you look you’re going to have issues. You’re going to be treated a certain way whether you’re attractive, or beautiful, you’re going to receive different opportunities. People might interpret a less attractive person as more talented or intelligent, but they’re going to have problems with learning how to find themselves, finding people that find them attractive, or love them. Either way you’re going to have issues with how you look, with how you’re treated. Find comfort in the way you look, and find comfort in your skill, trust that you’re going to be able to make the right decisions when you’re in a situation and be able to respectfully excuse yourself. Stand up in situations that are uncomfortable and say exactly what you want, express your intentions and hope that whoever you’re communicating with has the maturity or respect to recognize that and move forward. That’s something that I learned how to do fairly recently because I was afraid to speak up. I would let people treat me a certain way with the hopes that they’re not really treating me that way, or those weren’t their intentions. I put myself into situations where people came onto me when they were people I thought were friends, later realizing their motive.
Here are some details about her upcoming show:
Thursday, July 19th
6 – 9pm
“Frames on Frames” by Sarah H. Reynolds
13B East 4th Street
(Between Broadway & Lafayette Street)