Sarah Stolar

Artist Statement

My creative practice is autobiographical, identity driven, and rooted in a 25-year investigation of feminism and the female psychological narrative. I am primarily a painter, although the breadth of my work also includes multimedia installation, film, video, performance art, and a dedicated drawing practice. I am a process-driven, investigative artist who works with context, narrative, and visual language as a means to connect my audience with a greater visceral experience.


Over the last decade, I have returned to large-scale figurative oil painting and drawing in direct response to the current sociopolitical climate. In a time of "alternative facts,” the images are clear, illustrative representations of figures and their authoritative voice. The women and non-binary individuals are immediately present and dominant with their confident gaze focused directly on the viewer. These works begin by working directly with the subject to develop the image for the work. This collaborative dialogue allows them to maintain control over how they are depicted by choosing poses, clothing, and the overall presentation to communicate their authentic identity and personal empowerment. The individuals in the series are artists, writers, and activists who have shared their inherent gifts in an effort to evoke positive social change. I draw and paint them because they deserve to be solidified in the canon of historic portraiture. Some of the portraits provide a visual voice for the subject—one of reclamation, confrontation, or vulnerability. Others communicate an introspective state of mind or thought pattern represented through the commingling of figuration, symbolic imagery, and abstraction. The tradition of oil painting is an important part of my process. I am seduced by the alchemical nature of oil paint, but I am also interested in pushing the boundaries of what the material will do. The paintings are just as much about the act of painting and the surface as they are about the content.


Drawing is the foundation of my practice. In addition to figurative work, I explore mark-making from a flow-state in handmade sketchbooks and on paper. Images borrowed from schoolgirl notebook doodles, fairy tales, and religious stories are engulfed in turbulence, recalling storms, explosions, tornados, and other energetic surges. While familiar in composition, these landscapes feel uncharted and dreamlike, representing our psychological internal landscape. I work with a variety of materials including pencils, water soluble crayons, inks, acrylic paint, and anything else that will make a mark. I explore the medium of drawing traditionally, as works on paper, and through experimental animation and video.


These themes are explored in an ongoing sculptural installation and video documentation of private, public, and fantasy spaces that are both autobiographical and based on female-dominated spaces. In these works, I use the dollhouse format—a tiny toy world that is created and manipulated during the earliest years of life—as a metaphor for childhood illusions, dreams, and nightmares. Applying adult narratives to this classic young girls’ play-land invites questions about childhood development, gender expectations, the simplicity of youth, and the complexity of adulthood. With a skeleton of wood, they are constructed from any material that can be manipulated into a believable miniature. A sculpture may include video, drawings, handmade objects, sound, digitally manipulated photos, deconstructed motors, lighting, and various studio junk. These works function as multi-channel video installations, but also as sets for film and video which explore the same themes.


My works in video and film range from guerrilla projections on monuments and buildings to short, experimental videos incorporating 16 mm and Super 8 film to highly produced cinematic works. 



Sarah Stolar (b. 1974, Chicago, IL) is an interdisciplinary artist working from a 25-year investigation of the female psychological narrative. Her work includes painting, drawing, multi-media installation, film, video, and performance art.  She has exhibited across the US and internationally with solo exhibitions at the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Harwood Museum of Art, and BGMoCA in Montevideo, Uruguay. Her award winning films have screened in multiple film festivals and she has been featured in media outlets including Yale University Radio Archive, Fifty Feminist States, The Nation Magazine, and Hyperallergic. Stolar is currently Chair of the Art Department at the University of New Mexico-Taos.

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Sarah Stolar. Brittany (Suave qui puet). 2019. Oil on canvas. 72 x 96 x 3 in.