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Artist Sarah Sutton

Sarah Sutton is a painter based in Pittsford, NY. Her artwork has been shown in Europe and across the United States. She attended the Millay Colony artist residency, Santa Fe Art Institute and Yaddo and was a featured artist in New American Paintings, Northeast Edition # 158.

"Sarah Sutton was born in the Appalachian coal mining region of Northeastern Pennsylvania in a town that that rested over flooded anthracite coal mines, with remnants of coal breakers and culm piles. Influenced by her early experiences, she creates information landscapes that center on ecologies. Within the monochrome layering, the present is a palimpsest of the past and life is symbiotic and interdependent; from the banal to the monumental. Source material comes from zoomed in paint blobs, snippets of ink stains, digital glitches, headlines, internet searches, botanical research, stills from vintage news reels on YouTube, family trees, popular ephemera such as magazines, 60’s suburban ready-made house catalogues and ads for DDT found in thrift shops, estate sales, on craigslist and eBay. Much like the process of editing a film, multiple images are collated, but then compressed, layered and collapsed into a loose narrative. Compressing multiple images into one frame of a painting becomes a focus. Processes include drawing, digitally layering, AI training, as well as analogue models and contraptions that the artist designs. Ultimately the act of painting unifies; composition and mark-making create worlds within worlds that slowly unfold upon active viewing. A question of painting as asked by philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari is whether the hand or the ‘manual’ can keep up with the optical. This question drives her insistence on painting as medium."

Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.

I was born in Kingston, Pa then moved to Painesville, Ohio. I went to college in Cleveland, Ohio and I had a self designed major that was titled 'Contemporary Thought'. It was a 'hodge podge' of courses in Philosophy, Art History, Film Theory and Literary Theory.

My final project/thesis was an experimental video and I was sure I wanted to go to film school until I moved to Los Angeles and then I was sure I wanted to be a painter! I did some foundation course work at Cal State LA and worked at MOCA LA as an art preparator and waited tables. It was a rough time painting everyday and making ends meet, so I ended up going back to Ohio to attend grad school at Kent State and it was the best time of my life. I did not work as a waitress briefly and painted full time. After that I taught painting, drawing and 2D design as a professor for the past 15 years or so.

I recently left my tenured teaching position due to the challenge of covid and parenting. While teaching, I became inspired by the topics I was researching for my paintings and have since became an eco garden planner. I currently grow native plants and design habitat gardens on this side. It feeds my work and I feel like I am doing something practical to support the issues I feel strongly about.

What kind of work are you currently making?

My many detours served me well as I never tire of ideas. I am currently making mashed up landscapes that contain multitudes of compositional paths and intertwined stories that involve plants, creatures and land. I am also pretty inspired by the parallel but as I see it related worlds of artificial intelligence and plant intelligence... a very long story made short- intelligence does not necessarily require a brain or body and that blows my mind.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

Cleaning the wreckage (my studio is in my home for the first time in my life), listening to my partner's work calls, drinking espresso, listening to books to podcasts, drawing, daydreaming, making diagrams and writing notes, cleaning palettes, painting, planting while on break, and more painting and more planting.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I am reading Rebecca Claren's, 'The Cost of Free Land' . I am super interested in writing and painting that deals with family stories and how they link up to bigger meta histories. In my own case I have been doing a lot of genealogical research about my coal miner ancestors, where they originated from, how they lived and which coal breakers they worked at, who owned them and what their lives were like; also how these stories trickle down into my own stories. I am also looking at George Caitlin's paintings of Buffaloes.

Where can we find more of your work? (ex. website/insta/gallery/upcoming shows)

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