February 19, 2016

Spotlight: Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy's art feels like home.

Sarah Kennedy’s art feels like home. Her work simultaneously reminds me of the feeling of hugging a friend after missing them for months, heartbreak, a teenage bedroom safe haven, and loneliness. It  has a way of embodying these familiar emotions and making them sweet and sacred. Sarah’s art allows me to relive my happy and sad moments, and I suddenly feel glad that I’ve felt lonely because it allows me to relate to one of her pieces. It elevates the status of emotion and doesn’t prioritize or romanticize one feeling over the other. She explores this in a variety of mediums, including video, photography, printmaking, drawing, and embroidery. As well as working in all of these mediums, she edits the zine TROOP! Each medium complements one another and all of these piece are best viewed in conjunction. I talked to Sarah about college, creating a community of artists, and her dreams art project.

THE LE SIGH: How has working for different websites allowed your art to expand? 

SARAH KENNEDY: I honestly think it’s just allowed me to produce a lot of work regularly. It's also so important for me to have a space outside of my art school work so that I can experiment and try out different things. The online community I’ve formed through Pop Culture Puke and Screen Queens and others is so supportive and excited about my work that it really does allow me to make and fail and grow as an artist.

TLS: Do you prefer working with a set purpose (an instruction from an editor or a school assignment) or just working based on what you’re inspired to make? 

SK: I think both are super important because I get really unmotivated and uninspired if I’m just doing one or the other. Its great to have structure and instructions like what I find in my art classes because I find that really pushes me to explore different avenues of art or master just one medium. At the same time I love to be able to just work in my journal or mindlessly doodle. I find that this kinda refreshes me.

TLS: I feel like you have a community at school of young artists, perhaps because of Troop, the Atlanta-based feminist art collective you founded. Have you always had some form of community similar to this? If not, do you feel like it has fostered growth in your art or inspired you to create more, perhaps? 

SK: The most recent issue of the Troop Zine is based on the theme of competition and I think that’s a really perfect way to talk about the community I’ve formed at school and online. I usually find myself feeling competitive with my friends or even with other people that live in my town. Its usually a one sided feeling which is kinda funny because then it really means I’m only competing with myself. Regardless, it does push me to make more art not just in quantity but also in intricacy. I kinda feel like I try to make art that is difficult to imitate not necessarily in detail but in emotion. I don’t really know how to explain what I mean without sounding vain lol.

TLS: You work in so many different mediums: drawing, embroidery, collage, digital work, etc. Do you have a preference?

SK: I go through phases. I usually like to embroider or needlepoint or latch hook in my free time because I can do it when I’m watching TV but those mediums are exactly easy to do on the go. I also carry a journal with me so that I can write and draw and collages wherever I am. Its really funny to pull out a glue stick and markers at a party.

TLS: You express yourself through your appearance, with dying your hair, under eye glitter, embellishing your clothing, etc, and teen girls are often looked down upon for caring about the way that they appear. Do you think that expression through your appearance is just as valid or important as embroidery or drawing, for example? 

SK: I think any form of express is really important honestly. I used to express myself solely through my appearance because I didn’t really know what kind of art I wanted to make yet. I mean I even felt that way this time last year when I had pink hair. I would be lying if I said I don’t consider how I present myself everyday but honestly my style isn’t as concrete or focused as it used to be. I think I feel much more comfortable with myself now.

TLS: How has your college choice (either because of its location or the professors) affected your art work? 

SK: I live in Athens, Georgia and I’m in my second year at the University of Georgia. I think that by choosing a school that isn’t solely an art school has really benefitted me. I like having friends who are studying to be doctors or lawyers or musicians. It really inspires me to be around people who are interested in different things than me. Living in Athens has also really encouraged me as an artist because the town is pretty small and filled with creative and supportive people. I feel comfortable putting my work out into the community without fear of being overlooked or dismissed.

TLS: Your ‘Hang Out’ piece features the names of 5 artists. Can you explain the significance of these people/their work to you? 

SK: Annie Clark of St. Vincent, Frida Kahlo, Miranda July, RĂ©gine Chassagne of Arcade Fire, Margaret Killgallen. Each of these women are really important to me! Im really drawn to their work and style and authenticity (the theme of Issue #3 of Troop). Miranda July's work makes me feel crazy! I love her writing so much. I’ve been looking at a lot of Margaret Kilgallen's work recently her work is so so beautiful.

TLS: What's your dream art project? 

SK: I’m really hoping to open some sort of gallery/DIY space. I think it would be sick to have a space to play music and display art and gather. I know that’s the kind of space I was looking for in high school so I guess imma have to make it myself!

Sarah's work can be found here.

Rachel Davies is a student and freelance writer in Toronto and founded the zine distro, The Piece of Work. In the physical world, she can be found listening to Justin Bieber in a campus library but, in cyberspace, she's tweeting @rachelcomplains.