Deconstructing The Artist: Sarah Reynolds

Deconstructing The Artist is an ongoing series in which we break down a rising artist's work and, through conversation, get a sense of what drives them to create.

When we met up last week at Cookshop in Chelsea, NYC-based fine artist Sarah Reynolds was anxious. She had been consumed with packing over the last few days, readying herself for a multi-year trip that begins in Bali and ends at the esteemed School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she'll receive her Master's.

As with any passionate artist, Reynolds questioned how her work will be received once she exposes it to academia. Will she be dissuaded from using her medium of choice - charcoal - by peers and professionals alike? "I think a lot of people are going to try and push me out of charcoal. It's usually used to sketch, most artists don't use it or make it the finished product," she told me. But for her futuristic leaning sculptures and 3D pieces, charcoal is precious, despite being tedious, messy, and hard to protect.

Hearing Reynolds defend charcoal at length is like listening to a copywriter defend the comma; she is earnest. "It achieves the richest blacks, and the most beautiful gradients, which you really can't get with any other medium," she continues. "And since my sculptures defy the limitations set upon basic materials, [it's charcoal that] allows me to get intimate with my materials and use my hands to create and bend." Charcoal brings much of the beauty to the madness of her work.

During our sit down, Reynolds also discussed MoMA goals ("I want to be in the MoMA by 30"), music playlists, and why you should keep a notebook and pen under your pillow.

Can you give me a general sense of your background in art - where did you get your start?

Sarah Reynolds: I came out of the womb ready to create. As I kid, I was always bedazzling, cutting, cropping, painting, sewing, glittering, coloring, and gluing. I know most kids like to be crafty, but this was beyond; I customized all my clothes and handmade everything. I remember I used to win all the Michael’s and Hobby Lobby coloring contests as a kid, I would go home with a pile of art supplies. My parents definitely fostered my creativity, but I don’t think anyone thought it would lead to being my profession. I was in AP art and president of art club (weird, I know), and I loved it. I ended up winning the VASE gold medal my senior year of high school, which led me to going to NYU for fine art and marketing.

Describe your art:
My work is smart, sophisticated, tedious, and challenging.

What does your "work" playlist look like?
I listen to music that enhances my process. It depends on whether I’m working on a tedious, time intensive drawing or a spontaneous, organic sculpture. A few of my favorites: Clams Casino, The xX, Crystal Castles, Bob Marley, Lykke Li, Purity Ring, Al Green, Disclosure, Cut Copy, Years & Years, Sam Smith, Beyonce, & Halsey.

We were talking about how charcoal is kind of an underdog. Why are you wedded to that medium?

It allowed me to utilize my patience, steady hand, and eye for proportion to create work that took long hours and showed that I could analyze and translate things visually. I get a kick out of people being confused by how it’s made. I like the thought of people spending time with my art, and being challenged by it. To me, it also feels very balanced and centered, I think that’s important.

Who/what inspires your artwork?
Mostly my dreams. I keep a dream journal next to my bed [and when I'm creating] I’m able to unpack a lot of the visuals that occur in my dreams. Surprisingly, I’m very inspired by dirty things like subway grime, spills on the street, trash, and random textures/patterns found on structures and in nature. I’m also obsessed with the sky. As cheesy as it sounds, I like to look at the clouds in the sky and think about how each shape will never be seen again, it reminds me that everything is temporary and that I should cherish every moment, good or bad. This also helps me stay grounded and connected to reality.

Describe your process in one word.


May 24, 2016


Cass Alcide