Visual artist Sara Klar has one of the most interesting biographies of anyone I know. As a young woman, she broke with the insular culture in which she was raised and left all that was familiar behind in order to start her life over again, without the support of her family or community. In the process, she was forced to question what she was always taught about how she was supposed to live. She eventually became a visual artist, exhibiting in Brooklyn's Sideshow Gallery and Janet Kurnatowski, and garnering favorable reviews in The NY Artworld and Saatchi and Saatchi, among others.
I met Sara at VCCA last year, and I recently had a chance to visit her Brooklyn studio, where these photos were taken (with my Blackberry--not the best way to show art--better views can be found on Sara's website). Sara's paintings--which as you can see are very large--are the result of a continuous process of assembling and disassembling, building and destroying. She adds layer upon layer of completed paintings to a canvas and then peels, tears, gouges, and cuts away at it in a process of approaching understanding. As in life, unearthing truths is not a neat and orderly process. Sara told me that if she understands a work before it's done, she destroys it and starts again.
I thought about this in terms of my own approach to fiction. This is why I never write an outline (and I don't know many fiction writers who do); I don't want to know what's going to happen. When I begin, I may have an idea what a story is "about." I'll have a starting point for action, a character, and maybe a high point or big event to work toward--which, by the time I reach it, will probably have changed. I don't want any more information than that; I want to discover it as I go. If I find out too much and I'm still far from the end, I'm in danger of disengaging.
In many ways, Sara's approach to painting is the physical manifestation of the writer's revision process. When you have a draft, you have to go back and peel away, cut away, even inelegantly gouge out pieces of it in order to get it to the place where it works. And usually it's at that stage where the real meaning becomes apparent.
In addition to her paintings, Sara has her own interior design consulting firm. Her focus is on one-on-one consultations that, as she explains, "directly address the impact of emotions along with color, shape and function, within the design dialogue."
In her new practice, Design. physical>>>>>emotional>>>>>transitions, she guides people through the process of reimagining their environment while coping with powerful and complex emotional circumstances, such as new babies, second marriages, retirement, divorce, a death in the family, or other dramatic life style shifts. It seems to me that she's succeeded in integrating her approach to painting with what she learned from her difficult past, and applied it to her design work. I wish I had had her help when I was deciding what to do with my late aunt's furniture, which still sits in my living room, though it is both too big and too small for the space. Although it has no sentimental value to me, in what may be a major cop-out, I merely reupholstered it instead of replacing it. Maybe Sara would have convinced me otherwise. It's uncomfortable furniture, and I hardly ever sit on it, preferring instead either my Lazy-Boy recliner or a giant beanbag chair. And I think that's all I'll say about that.
Meanwhile, I hope that at some point Sara will decide to write her story, because it's a good one.