When I met Sara Lynch at Maxfield’s in Potsdam, NY, the first thing I noticed was her unique style—a pair of pants the color of pale yellow spring and a graphic print zip-up, and vintage light pink cat-eye glasses. It is clear that Lynch weaves her personality and creativity into all realms of her life. Sara Lynch was born and raised in Potsdam, a small college town in Northern New York. She is the daughter of a math professor who stares at the ceiling for hours to solve equations and a mother currently working on a biography about an escaped slave who established a successful business in the North Country in the midst of emancipation. Lynch attended Alfred University, studying painting, photography and psychology. She earned a BFA in painting and ceramics. Upon graduating, she returned to Potsdam to run an after-school program, and to further pursue her art. In a world that is gradually becoming more artificial, Lynch makes it a point to celebrate and depict the beauty of everyday life and to recycle the things that others consider trash.
As an artist, Lynch has taken advantage of the many opportunities that are open to young artists in the United States. She attended the Medalta International Artists Residency, The Penland School of Crafts, and Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts to participate in workshops in ceramics. Lynch also attended the Vermont Studio Center for a four-week residency in painting. It was while she was in Vermont where she started her current line of work, which involves painting on non-traditional objects, such as bras. Her work has been exhibited in several local galleries as well as in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New York City.
I prepared several questions for Lynch to deepen my understanding of her own story and philosophy, and how they have implanted themselves into her art.
How old were you when you realized you loved to create art? What was this experience like, and what were you making?
Lynch: When I was about one and a half years old, I was sitting in my highchair, eating mashed potatoes. Apparently, I thought the mashed potatoes would be a better art material than food. Despite my lack of fine motor skills, I patted them into a pile on my tray while exclaiming, ‘I’m making a sark! I’m making a sark!’ Translation: I’m making a shark. Why I was so intent on making a shark is unknown. I have not made any sharks since.
What is your favorite medium to work with, and why?
Lynch: This is hard because I like almost all of them. I like painting because it has such a rich history. I like clay because it’s so fulfilling to make something that people can use every day. I love recycling, and that’s where my fabric, beads, and other random small objects come into play. The immediate satisfaction of capturing an instant for forever makes me love photography. I could probably go on and on about why I like different mediums. This was very problematic in undergrad because they wanted me to focus [in a specific medium].
Where do you find inspiration in creating your art?
Lynch: I’m inspired by the world around me. Particularly, when two seemingly opposite qualities come together, such as things that beautiful, but also ugly. When I find something that is beautiful but also a bit awkward, uncomfortable, or ugly, I get so excited. I collect all kinds of things that possess this quality. Pictures of weird animals like sloths and sun bears, ugly housewares such as a cheap duck shaped soap dish, and tree branches with growths—my collections are a bit excessive. So, I collect all this stuff, and either directly incorporate it as an art material, like with my paintings, or I use it as inspiration for a functional sculpture. My most successful work is a depiction of this dynamic balance between ugliness and beauty.
Do you believe in making statements (political, etc.) in your art, or do you prefer to simply let your art speak for itself (aesthetically)?
Lynch: There’s a principle in physics called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Basically, it states that as soon as you measure something you change it. By speaking about my work, I change the way it is seen, and also how I think when I make things. It is necessary for me to focus my thoughts and ideas. However, since you asked I will answer—I don’t make overt political statements with my work, but when it’s done well, I respect it. My work is, to some extent, social commentary about excess and consumption, but not everyone always picks that up.
What is your favorite work that you have created, and why?
Lynch: Probably anything new. I just made a double swan dish inspired by a really ugly double swan dish that I found at a garage sale run by the sweetest old lady. She was moving out of the house she had lived in for 60 years. She kindly let me take pictures of her swan collections. Right now, that and a new painting I just did of two cell phones are my most favorite things ever. I’ll finish them, love them, and then move on to a new favorite. Although my freshman year of undergrad, I did this project from the front page of the NY Times issue published on the day I was born. It mentioned a chicken in a tree—so I went with that. I collected stories about chickens from everyone I knew and wrote them on cleaned out chicken eggs. I make chickens in various stages of life out of screening, sewn together with wire and paper machéd with brown paper towels. The storied eggs went inside the various chickens. That was an epic project…
In many instances, visual art and written art remain divided by the confines of their forms. What is your take on fusing the visual and the written arts? Have you, yourself, ever collaborated with other artists who specialize in different fields?
Lynch: I spent a month at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT for a residency in painting. I slept a lot (something I almost never do), explored the river behind my studio, did lots of yoga and of course, made art. It was an amazing and wonderful place. One of the most amazing parts of it was that there were writers there, too. They were super fun to hang out with, and they kept telling all the artists that we were so normal in comparison to them. One of the writers made a really wonderful poem about the work of various artists there. I suppose that was her collaboration with everyone, but it was really cool to listen to her at her reading, talking about the art people were working on.
Last but not least: art imitates nature or nature imitates art?
Lynch: This question is funny. The only way I can fathom that nature could imitate art is if I were to believe Plato when he claimed that our world is simply an imperfect copy of a transcendent perfect version of our world. This seems ridiculous—so to me, yes, art imitates nature.
You can learn more about Sara’s work at the following links:
Official website: http://saraelynch.com/
Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/potsdamelf
In addition to creating art, Lynch makes adorable and quirky handmade jewelry, which you can find in her Etsy shop. Be sure to follow her Facebook page for updates on her latest creations and artistic musings!