Interview: Sarah Lorentz
Luca Curci talks with Sarah Lorentz during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Contemporary painter Sarah Lorentz (American, 1994 – present) creates energetic, striking compositions full of bold brushwork and electric color while tapping into the nostalgia of her childhood in a small Midwestern town. Though the subject matter of her work ranges from evocative figurative commentaries to pastoral plein-air landscapes, the physicality of material and deliberate remnants of the process reveal the same confident hand behind the brush. Sarah’s academic training has been traditional with apprenticeships under successful artists and extended studies abroad in Europe. She earned her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and now has an active presence in St Louis where she lives and works, as well as regularly exhibiting nationally and internationally.
“To have personal bias is to be human. Recognition is the first step in actively redefining these systems of thought. My collection relies on the innate intimacy of the human form as a channel for projection to bring these biases to light. Each composition includes two or more figures who, by nature of being human, form a relationship within the frame of the painting. By combining disparate source material, including a number of figure paintings and family photographs, I form unified but psychologically charged relationships that are unusual, evocative, and rich in implied narrative. This collection is meant to be viewed as a whole, rather than as autonomous artworks, functioning much like a Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) – projective psychological tests using ambiguous pictures to stimulate the subject’s interpretative story for analytical purposes. As narratives are projected onto each piece, thematic patterns emerge, revealing the viewer’s personal bias. Equally important to my work is the materiality of the painted surface. I pursue a simultaneous level of realism and aesthetically satisfying abstraction in my work. Continually adjusting this balance between representationalism and geometric simplification provides a challenge that sustains my creative engagement with the process while also enhancing the usefulness of these paintings as tools for projection. Leaving informational gaps prompts the subconscious automatic response to fill in details, allowing viewers to more easily engage in the active role of supplying narrative.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Sarah Lorentz – I was fortunate to be able to study both art and psychology at the university level, and I began to find my voice at this intersection of art and science. As I had opportunities to show my work and receive feedback, it became clear that my work had the potential to elicit a wide range of emotional responses and generate open dialogues about past hurts and healing. I don’t have a single, monumental experience that I can point to; rather, it is a layering of the everyday experiences that informs my work. My experience as a female and as a mother, as well as the stories of close friends have influenced my work. The everyday microaggressions, the constant strain of hyper-vigilance, the ever-present possibility for trauma, and the added responsibility of another’s emotional and bodily safety are featured themes in my paintings’ narratives.
LC – What are you currently working on?
SL – I’ve just started a new phase for my series in which I am collecting viewer responses through a survey; responses are being cataloged to evaluate the relationship between past traumatic experiences and viewer interpretation. In the last year, I completed three new, large-scale paintings for the collection, and I currently have a fourth large painting in progress.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
SL – Artists play a large role in society enriching lives; commercially, artists are involved in nearly all aspects of consumer consumption, but there is still a role for contemporary fine art to ignite conversations and challenge societal complacency on relevant topics.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
SL – I want viewers to participate actively in the conversation; I am most interested in figurative work because of the potential it has to connect with the viewer. The human brain has more dedicated space specifically for facial recognition than it does for all other object recognition. By utilizing figures in such a way that leaves informational gaps, viewers are prompted to supplant their own experiences and memories onto the work to create a narrative. I am excited about the potential to apply scientific methods of diagnostic psychology to prompt viewers to recognize patterns within their psyche as the first step towards emotional healing.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
SL – My work has shifted towards childhood trauma and pivotal moments where innocence can be preserved or disturbed, largely informed by my own experience as a mother. I’m thinking about the role of a parent to protect not only biological children but of the next generation of our society. I’m also interested in the process of healing through the reflection of past experiences, identification of thought patterns, and conscious movement towards change. I also find inspiration within my process; I have developed a working process that keeps me engaged with every step and that excitement of discovery keeps each painting fresh. I start my figurative paintings as collages, matching figures from disparate sources to create interactions that appear to have a neutral tone but can support multiple superimposed narratives. I really enjoy this step in the process because it is a bit like a puzzle, trying out different combinations until one click. Once I begin painting, I focus on finding a balance between representational realism and visually satisfying abstraction. I preserve remnants of the process and allow informational gaps to prompt viewers to fill in the gaps and more easily add a personal narrative to the work.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
SL – I don’t believe that there is just one right way to think about art, but I did connect with the vision statement of ITSLIQUID. In part, this is what convinced me to submit my work because it seemed like a really good fit for the themes I am working with “The Hidden Rooms” collection, in particular, aligns with my work, centering around hidden aspects of identities, levels of consciousness, and the relationship between our bodies and perceptions of reality.
LC – In which way the artworks presented in our exhibition are connected with the festival’s theme?
SL – I’ve enjoyed seeing the works of the other selected artists; not only is there a high caliber of work, but they work as a collection telling a deeper story than any individual piece. Looking through all the pieces, I feel the tension between our compulsion to reveal our true identity or otherwise impersonate societal conformity; I see a deeper calm and resilience of the inner psyche, and I see the illustrated relationship between mental states and the external environment.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
SL – ITSLIQUID GROUP has created a platform that is accessible to artists at all stages of achievement with curation based on artistic merit and relevancy rather than pedigree. The collections I’ve seen curated so far have a sense of sincerity that I often find missing in the ‘highbrow’ art world. I really appreciate ITSLIQUID for keeping the door open!
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
SL – Absolutely; I would encourage artists looking for international exposure to watch for opportunities through the ITSLIQUID page. Having my work shipped internationally presented new challenges, but the assistance and correspondence from my representative were exceptional.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
SL – Very much! I will look for more exhibition opportunities with ITSLIQUID in the future.