Faculty Feature: The Contested Territories of Sarah G. Sharp


What does it mean to be outside? What does it mean to be inside? What does it mean to build a utopian community?

Last Monday AP faculty member Sarah G. Sharp (far right) joined artist Ariel Jackson at Videology in Brooklyn to talk about the moving image and art. The event was part of the DELVE networking series hosted by Kind Aesthetic

Allison Hewitt Ward profiles her. 


Sarah’s work explores the representations and iconography of space, both physical and cultural. While she often responds to the language(s) of media, she explained that her practice is based in materials. “I make a lot of things with my hands,” she told the group assembled around tables in Videology’s screening room, “which comes out of drawing.”

In The Devil in Our Midst, an ongoing multimedia project, Sarah uses drawings and an interactive Google map to present an archive of American sites with “devil names”(e.g., Devil’s Tower, Wyoming). She explained that many of these sites contained  resources that European settlers wanted to keep to themselves, so they assigned names designed to frighten  others away. These significations of land by and in the service of societies are interrogated frequently in her work.

Sierra Madre/Rio Claro from Sarah G Sharp on Vimeo.

During a 2011 residency at the Cortijada Los Gazquez in the Parque Natural Sierra Maria - Los Velez in Spain, Sarah used collage to explore the shapes of now-defunct property boundaries in the landscape. This body of work, entitled The Other Side, addresses the mutable personal and cultural mythologies of landscape.  It includes panoramas rendered into video that Sarah created by turning her body to position herself as the perceptive agent at the intersection of nature and cultural signification. Another video presents a still time-lapse of the landscape in which day and night pass over in the course of an hour. Her use of moving images allows her to collage elements of time and space just as she does boundaries and vistas.

Sarah credits a childhood defined by her utopian fundamentalist Christian family with her continuing interest in the dialectic of inside and outside. “What does it mean to be outside?” she asks. “What does it mean to be inside? What does it mean to build a utopian community?” Her most recent work, The Youth Communes of the Pacific States, takes on these questions. Through research in photo archives of ‘60s and ‘70s communes, mini-utopias guided by a fantasy of primitivism and a rejection of contemporary society, Sarah discovered a body of somewhat paradoxical images: representations of ”alternative lifestyles” whose subjects were all white and heterosexual. She was particularly interested in a special issue of Life Magazine entitled “The Youth Communes,” which took on the task of representing the ”alternative” to the ”mainstream.” In a series of works that combine embroidery and collaged deconstructions that take after Buckminster Fuller’s utopian geometry she breaks open the layers of representation of work in these images in order to unpack the narratives they form and repeat of who we, as a culture, are.

Sarah G. Sharp teaches Beginner Video and Sound Editing and Intermediate-Advanced Video and Sound Editing in the MFA Art Practice program at the School of Visual Arts.

-Allison Hewitt Ward (AP Staff)