Interview With Sarah Eaves

February 12th 2010

Interview With Sarah Eaves

Brooklyn based Sarah Eaves first caught my attention with her unsettling pencil portraits. I then discovered her now obsolete performance collective Love + Affection. I wanted to know more about this shift in practice. She had me intrigued…

Sarah Eaves studio

IS: You currently live and work in Brooklyn.  What is it that attracted you to that area? Why do you think Brooklyn attracts so many artists?

SE: Like most artistic communities, Brooklyn as a home base was born out of necessity.  Manhattan is just so expensive, and Brooklyn offers larger spaces, for more reasonable prices.  It is a really interesting alternative to the Chelsea gallery district.  Without the pressure of making the big bucks (not that we don’t like money), there is freedom.  Many of us have flocked to the outer boroughs, and as a result, there are a number of thriving alternative arts spaces, studios, galleries, etc.  Although, Williamsburg (my neighborhood), is well on it’s way to being just as expensive as Manhattan.  Sigh.  But, I think that’s true of all big cities- the artists make the neighborhood desirable, then gentrification pushes them out.

IS: You have produced work both on your own and collaboratively as part of a performance collective.  How do you balance these two contrasting sides of your practice?

SE: Love + Affection, my performance collective, was my main focus for a number of years, during which my personal practice was more or less on hold.  As an artist living in the most expensive city in the U.S., I need to have a number of jobs to support myself, and finding time to make work is a constant struggle.  And I’m a terrible multi-tasker, one thing at a time please.  So, my studio time was dedicated completely to my performance work- research, concept and fabrication, booking performances, advertising, applying for grants and residence programs, cataloguing photos and videos.

 Close Thine Eyes and Sleep Secure, Sarah Eaves, 2010, graphite on paper 8" x 8"

IS:  Your individual practice includes a lot of portraiture.  Can you tell me about what interests you in this medium?

SE: I’ve been focused on portraiture for a couple years now.  I was a ballet dancer, a very anonymous medium wherein one personality is interchangeable with another.  When I left dance, and began making art, I followed suit and made work exclusively about the body- headless bodies, inner organs, performance work.  I finally came to a point where I was just bored with it, and realized that what I was missing was the individual.  I became intensely interested in individualness and personal narrative.

So I very simply, began making pictures of people in various states of ennui or distress.  It’s become an examination of loss and mourning, and how we express grief both culturally and personally.  It’s a really exciting departure for me.

IS: How did your performance collective come about? Can you tell me about the work you did together?

SE: I started the performance collective with Danielle Charboneau and Mark Creegan.  Danielle is an artist in a number of mediums, as well as my best friend, and Mark, also a good friend, is a musician and sound engineer.  Danielle was working with Mark on an abstract sound project, and I wanted to be involved in some way, and it seemed performance was the natural way to go, considering my history as a dancer.  Therein Love + Affection was born, although it has since disbanded.  Our work was highly physical, testing the limitations of my physicality and endurance.  In most cases, my body acted as a physical burden upon the performers, as well as the audience.  The idea was to create a sense of stress and anxiety in the audience, hoping to provoke a sense of worry for my well being, as well as empathy for the pain I was experiencing.  We were very inspired by the Viennese Actionists and Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty.

 Hanging, Love + Affection, 2007, video still

IS: What are the main differences you encountered, between exhibiting your previous performance works and exhibiting your current drawings or paintings? How differently were they received?

SE: Looking at art hanging on a wall is a passive experience.  While you are emotionally and intellectually engaged, a physical relationship with it is rare.  With our performance work, the audience was directly physically engaged.  In some pieces, one had to actually leave the room to not be directly involved in the work. And that makes people uncomfortable.  They want to choose how they are going to experience the work, not the other way around.  So, it was interesting to see this difference.  I really love the kind of performance work that sucks you in, whether you like it or not.  Brock Enright is an artist that is a genius at this.  You can’t leave one of his performances without feeling violated, and it’s great.

IS: What artists and spaces based in New York would you recommend looking into?

SE: In New York, it’s of course a must to visit the staples, like the Met (probably my favorite place in the city), MOMA, Chelsea, etc.  To see great performance work, The Kitchen is an amazing space.  P.S. 1 in Long Island City always has interesting stuff- performances, openings, and music.  3rd Ward, in Brooklyn, is also a really great place.  They have a gallery space, wood and metal shop, photo studio, studio spaces, they host a number of events, and they’re super open-minded and actively contribute to the art community.  MonkeyTown (recently closed, RIP) was awesome for video/performance/music/dinner.  Any galleries in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and the Lower East Side are worth checking out.  People are doing some far out stuff.