Q+Art: Artist Sarah Jamison Captures the Beauty and Dread of Life in the Digital Age
Mixed-media artist Sarah Jamison creates seamless drawings that interpret human experience through the lens of contemporary digital culture. Her bold work exposes the friction between the old analog world and the new digital age by incorporating Internet aesthetics and instantly recognizable cultural artifacts.
Jamison uses traditional materials—goache, ink, and colored pencils—to create a smooth, uninterrupted surface that defies easy categorization. Her drawings are packed with clashing colors and patterns that blur the line between fine art convention and futuristic new media. Jamison’s work is precise, ordered, and contained, an approach that reflects the cold sterility of life lived under technology’s watchful gaze.
Mixing and matching imagery and aesthetic influences allows Jamison to analyze our understanding of time, tradition, and beauty. Each piece mirrors the anxiety and existential dread underlying modern life in a hyperconnected world. Jamison says she wants her work to mimic “that uncomfortable feeling” she gets after doomscrolling through her social media feeds. In fact, her pieces capture both vague dread and limitless potential, an uneasy dichotomy that becomes more pronounced as mankind and technology evolve, inseparably, together.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Sarah Jamison discusses discusses the friction between analog and digital culture, early 2000s dating shows, and the growing accessibility of art.
What one book belongs on every artist’s shelf?
Sarah Jamison: Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis.
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
SJ: I'd have to go with Frida Kahlo. She's an artist I've admired my whole life.
What are you trying to express with your art?
SJ: I want to express the friction and overlap between digital and analog culture.
Do you prefer New York- or Chicago-style pizza?
SJ: If it's pizza, I'm eating!
Would you work for free in exchange for exposure?
SJ: This is a hot topic for artists—the ethics of providing labor for the promise of exposure. Working for exposure is something creatives are asked to do frequently. I have done it, as most artists have at some point. Artists have to weigh their opportunities carefully—it can be positive or predatory.
What person has most influenced your work?
SJ: The most consistent influence on my work is my husband. He and I met in art school and he has seen my work evolve over the better part of two decades. Nobody knows my art with the same level of intimacy as he does. He is unfailingly supportive and gives honest critiques. If he says the work is on to something, I know it's good. I'm fortunate to have a partner who "gets" what I do.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
SJ: Early 2000s dating shows. I love any of them: Flavor of Love, I love New York, Rock of Love. I've watched them all.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
SJ: My greatest artistic achievement is pursuing my arts practice full time. Every exhibition or opportunity is exciting, but when I was [a] little girl, all I wanted was to be an artist. It's fulfilling in a way that is hard to describe, but is essential to the core of my identity.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
SJ: My mom has always demonstrated perseverance and trusting in yourself. She radiates a certain energy that is mischievous and fun as well as powerful and unafraid. I try to emulate that, or at least hold her example in mind.
Is a formal arts education worth the money?
SJ: I think the value of a formal arts education depends on the individual and the institution. I don't think that success is contingent on a terminal degree. Acknowledging that some schools do provide access to the rarefied air version of the art world, no school can give you personal work ethic or discipline. Generally speaking, I believe those traits will take you farther than where you received your diploma.
What is one thing you would like to change about the art world?
SJ: One of the big changes in the art world would be creating a system for the artist to benefit from the appreciation of their work. Over time and with success, the increasing value of pieces can benefit several individuals and institutions, but rarely, if ever, the artist.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic will impact the art world in the long term?
SJ: Over the longest term, I hope it is positive. I think online exhibitions, virtual tours, and more digital engagement with artists, curators, galleries, and collectors should and will become the norm in addition to traditional exhibitions. The pandemic has made the experience of viewing art even more accessible. Folks who may never have thought to go to an art opening or considered acquiring work are able to immerse themselves without leaving their home.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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