MIXED MEDIA ART | NORTHERN VIRGINIA, USA
read our interview with Sarah below
HOUSE OF THEODORA CHATS TO SARAH BARNFART
SARAH BARNFART IS A SELF-CONFESSED ART BITCH HAILING FROM NORTHERN VIRGINIA WHOSE COLOURFUL CREATIONS ARE A MIX OF CANDID, THOUGHTFUL COMMENTARY, EROTICA & HUMOUR. IS THERE A BETTER COMBINATION THAN THAT? WE THINK NOT!
You describe yourself as an “art bitch”. Who is Sarah Barnfart, the art bitch?
I am a foul-mouthed 26-year-old artist living in Northern Virginia. I’ve got a big dream and a fist full of porn magazines! I’m a book slinger by day but I spend pretty much every other waking moment making something new are trying to figure out what to do next. I’m don’t really know what I am doing but I do know that I love making art and I love making people laugh.
How did you get started in the world of mixed media?
Initially, I was working in just traditional hand cut collage, only using elements of paper on paper. When I was doing that, I liked it, but it didn’t feel like there was enough of myself in it; it felt almost stale. I wanted to express more than I could by pasting found pictures together. Instead of backing away from collage completely, I just began adding different elements; drawing backgrounds, adding color and text. Over time, it evolved into what you see today, and I’d like to think it is still evolving.
Can you describe your artistic process? How do you go about creating your art?
I generally start with a background; deciding what pattern and colors I am going to use is probably my favorite part. I usually spend the most time in the process working on the background. Once I have a background down, I try to visualize a concept: maybe thinking about an emotion I’ve felt strongly or even a fleeting thought I may have had and jotted down. I try to keep the pieces close to how I’m feeling in the “now” as I can. Once I have at least a half concept, I take a while looking through old porn magazines finding the perfect person to complete the piece. Finding a perfect focal point from the magazines can be difficult because sometimes you can’t find exactly what you are looking for and you must settle, which can be a blessing in disguise. But, once I do find what I am looking for, I cut out the person, assemble everything together, adding some small drawn elements and text and we’re done!
interview continues below images
If we were to be lucky enough to see you in your artistic bliss, creating your works, what would we see? Can you paint a picture for us?
Picture me—hunched over my big orange desk, in just my sports bra and underwear, 7 half empty seltzer cans, jazz music blasting from the computer behind me. There’s a stack of porn magazines to my left and pile of eraser shavings to my right. I have my legs tucked underneath me in my chair and I’m scribbling away at a weekly journal piece on a Friday night, completely alone – zoned out to the point of full immersion into whatever I am making. It’s a chaotic mess but somehow peaceful and relaxing at the same time.
You often mix nude women with messages of mental health, where did that inspiration come from?
Historically, women have been expected to be very buttoned up, both literally and figuratively. We’re supposed to cover our chests, cross our legs and keep our feelings to ourselves because otherwise it’s rude, which is complete bullshit. I think the juxtaposition of nudity and mental health stemmed somewhere from that. I wanted to just put it all on FULL BLAST. Like we’re here, we’re naked and we’re talking about our feelings whether you like it or not!
You’ve spoken at length on social media about your experience with anxiety and self-doubt. It’s something that many of us deal with and one of the best things we can do is talk about it. Would you mind sharing some of your own personal history with mental health?
I’ve had some mix of depression and anxiety probably since I was about 15. Over the last decade or so, my depression and anxiety manifested in a lot of different ways – self harm, isolation, eating disorders. Most of that time, I have spent trying to just figure it out myself, which is a lot of the reason why I make art. I spent a lot of time semi-denying that the way that I felt wasn’t normal and trying to make excuses for it. I always felt like reaching out to someone for help or showing my vulnerability was going to be construed as weakness, so I steered clear of being open about it. Recently I got to a point where I could no longer do it on my own and I’ve finally reached out to my first therapist and I’m super excited to see where that goes and officially take charge of my healing process.
interview continues below images
What’s inspiring you lately?
Ooh this doesn’t seem like it would be a hard question, but it is! I am seriously inspired by all sorts of things! Sometimes, I will be eating an egg sandwich and be inspired by that! I think most notably, I’ve been working hard on trying new perspectives. I’ve taken a lot of interest in 3D optical illusion books for children. Trying to figure out how to replicate them by hand has been interesting and a lot of them turn out awful but it’s all practice!
What is the most rewarding thing about being a woman today?
Honestly, not even just being a woman but just as a person right now, I am enjoying seeing other people just liberate themselves and do the things they want to do and be the person they want to be. I think the internet has been vital to letting people have a peek at a world they do not live in and letting them experience things they might not have access to otherwise. It is so important and I love that people are stepping out of their boxes and being queer and vulnerable and honest and overall enjoying themselves!!!!
What do you find the most difficult thing about being a woman today?
There is still so much shaming and censorship, not just for women but for all people. Even in 2019, I am alarmed at the rate people’s profiles, some that took YEARS to gain their following and build up, are being taken down and forgotten because they are fat, or they are queer, or they have a shadow of a “female- identifying nipple” showing. It’s honestly so ludicrous. I feel more censored on the internet now than when I was a teenager. It’s feels like we came so far only to regress, and I hate that.
Social media offers a new avenue for speaking about the things that really matter. What we love about your social media presence is your dedication to honesty and talking about real difficulties, but you also have a great sense of humour. Why do you think this mix resonate so much with your following?
I think it is very important to have a laugh, especially in the political climate we are in right now. A lot of things seem super bleak right now, but we still need to talk about it and be aware of what is happening in the world we live on, because this is where we live and there’s only one! But mixing in a little humour rarely ever hurts anybody and maybe if we can have a laugh, we can stomach the real underlying discussion of the things that are vital to know, even if they hurt to hear.
interview continues below images
What thoughts run through your mind the moments before you announce a new work to the world?
Mostly excitement but sometimes a little bit of fear. I look forward to posting my weekly piece and seeing that real time reaction of people who relate to it or are appreciative of my work. But still, I never know what’s going to happen: what if the audience reacts differently than expected or my post gets taken down? I have been so lucky so far with a super supportive following but sometimes there are stragglers who are unreasonably negative and that always stings because I’m putting so much of myself into each piece and it always feels like a personal attack.
What have you found to be the biggest challenges in producing art in the heavily censored social media age?
The biggest challenge is trying to have as much freedom of expression as I can without breaking the rules. Trying to work around such strict guidelines while also making art that is inherently erotic, even if I don’t consider it as such. Like knowing how to censor my art so it doesn’t get taken down but also leaving enough there that it still feels like a “fuck you”.
What do you hope to see change in the next five years for artists?
I hope all artists and content creators are able to just make what they want and not have to worry about whether they will be kicked off the internet for posting it and trying to gain recognition for their work. Maybe we will get lucky and some super cool young developer will bless us with a platform free of restrictions for our art and we can begin the mass exodus from the land of Zucc to bigger and better things.
Who are the women that inspire you?
I am constantly inspired by other artists. I spend so much of my time on Instagram appreciating the art of my friends and wondering how I got to know so many amazing people. I love the work of Fatty Spice (@fatty_spice). She makes big beautiful window installations; I gasped out loud at my phone the first time I found her page. Her art is so different from the things I make but I love how you can tell there’s so much emotion in each one. They are so pink and delicate but so robust and intricate at the same time. It is everything I want to see in a piece of art. I have never gotten to see any in person (which I hope changes really soon) but I can tell if I stood in the room near one of her assemblages, I would cry.
What are you currently working on?
I will continue working on my long-term project of the weekly diary entries. I’m not sure how long I plan to keep doing that for but probably for a while. One day, I would eventually like to make the diary entry project into a big beautiful hardcover book. I am also working on ideas for new merchandise, some collaborations and maybe a small personal zine project.
Location: Northern Virginia, USA
Type of art: mixed media collage
Preferred medium: marker, collage
Size range: 4”x6” – 13x13”
Other design products: T-shirts, stickers, pinback buttons
Price range: $6 – $150
Do you accept commissions: only commercial commissions
Wait time for commissions: 2 weeks – 1month
Upcoming shows: Group Chat: An Art Meme Show