The exhibition “Keeping House: Prints and Sculptures by Sarah Wolf Newlands” at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (September 2018 – January 2019) featured assemblage sculptures and a community recipe screen-printing project. The artist’s assemblages are composed of physical remnants from her parents’ home. The screen-prints were inspired by handwritten recipes from her mother’s collection. Wolf Newlands invited friends and family to tell stories about memories related to eating together, then made editions of silkscreen prints for each recipe.
The exhibition reminds us that the notion of “home” is complicated. Whether home endures as an actual physical place, it certainly persists in a tangle of memories that foment and reshape over time.
This photo of Peter and Michelle holding a giant ball of my mother’s shoes. Several of us worked together to tether together approximately 100 pairs. A few people commented that the shoes suggest time, walking, and moving forward. For those of us who knew her, certain shoes remind us of the occasions when she wore them.
The soap remains came from my late mother’s house. I found them in a plastic hotel laundry bag under her bathroom sink. When my brothers and sister, and I were emptying the house, I pulled out the bag and arranged the soaps on an old bedspread on her canopy bed. They smelled familiar and pretty—but the fragrance had the fading quality of stale perfume. I think of this collection as her Janine Antoni “Lick and Lather” cover song, created as a by product of a quiet meditative daily bathing ritual.
I labor in an effort to alter and invigorate my perception of things. I arrange familiar things like clothing, blankets and curtains into formal compositions through processes like wrapping, binding, stuffing and covering. These materials and processes become the marks of an alternate form of painting and drawing. Formal abstraction provides a language for my work. My vocabulary is borrowed from painting, but my materials are commonplace.
The process of binding blankets tightly with upholstery thread produces coils and twisting ropes. From cadenced and continuous wrapping, forms emerge with organic and biomorphic characteristics. The process commands the work’s outcome, therefore, my role as an artist is intermediary. This work is about finding beauty in the mundane repetition of everyday life.
In our society the lifespan of things is much shorter than their durability. Things are acquired, used, and discarded. Working with abandoned everyday stuff is a way of coping with the material world. Repetition and process become methods of transformation.