Sarah Valeri

Art is something that is necessary to all of us as humans. It seems natural that it has slowly been taking over my life.
Working as an art therapist has helped me to develop a certain acceptance for my impulses and the time it takes to see them out. This is a rather fundamental concept, but essential to just about everything in life.
When I was young I began to draw and kept it mostly to myself. As I got older I spent more time working in sketchbooks, studying some life drawing, all in a very concrete sort of way. For many years afterward I painted large and solitary figures alone in my basement in Nebraska. They were rarely seen.
In 2004 I resigned my teaching position and moved to New York, eventually settling in Bushwick. The totemic figures began to mingle. They started to spread out and sometimes they wore clothes, as if they wanted to show up in real life. They became rather infatuated with different symbols of the urban landscapes, such as manhole covers, and streetlights. During this time I was studying for my art therapy degree and working at various psychiatric hospitals and therapeutic art settings, as well as within the public schools. I worked on some community murals with children and adolescents and as a teaching artist within the public schools in the Bronx. All of these shared experiences influenced my work. Now at times painting seems like such a crowded endeavor. Every painting tries to encompass everything, the individual and the totality.
Currently I have been working on longer, slower paintings that begin as brief but stark moments and then as I am painting I consider all the different connections of that experience to all the other moments I experience. I have also begun new paintings inspired by photographs by Colin Ward of children in the city. Collaboration has been a large part of finding connections with the world around me. I have been performing live with KMBS and Snazz Mammoth for the past two years, drawing spontaneously in response to the movement of the music. I have also been working on drawings and paintings in response to writing by author Susan Scutti.

Artist Statement

I often say there is a constant balance between honesty and privacy in my paintings. Originally they were strongly influenced by symbols and characters from very affected dream stories. Only I know their specific significance, though I do hope that a connection can be found between the interpretation of the viewer and my own interpretation. A meeting place of our experience.
Since I have been living in the city the paintings have literally become more crowded, but hopefully with connected and evolved characters rather than just a massed gathering. The relationship of the characters and metaphors in the space of the painting develop the significance of the composition for me while I am painting. I work in layers of oils, but rarely plan ahead, allowing the image to grow while I tell the story to myself, often repainting and coming up with new solutions and relationships. Recently I have been adding heavy amounts of galkylds to the paint, building up layer after layer of color rather than mixing. At its best it creates a better sense of transparency, which I have enjoyed using to mix the fore and background together altering the space from a concrete location to a more spiritual walk. At times the paintings seem to develop a certain trance like quality to me, due to the fact that there are so many details and sub stories to follow and visually the focal points blend and elude, specifically in Simple Act of Conjuring and Sonic Youth Review.
The fabric pieces started out as very small wishes, eventually building up to the Most Delicate of Hopes series. They were easily carried and pieced together during my daily travels and are similar in my mind to Tibetan prayer flags. At this time I have begun making them into larger works, following a similar process to the paintings and being completely hand sewn they are slow to grow. They are dependent on the finding of scraps and special gifts, or the death of some special garment. I do however greatly enjoy the lightness of the small pieces. They seem small but mighty to me. Light and unraveling, they are still able to stand against the weather, survive commuting or a trip to the Laundromat. Their versatility is an undervalued survival skill.

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