SARAH SUTTON

The defensive and unfocused eye of our time, burdened by sensory overload may eventually open up new realms of vision and thought, freed from the implicit desire of the eye for control and power. The loss of focus can liberate the eye from its historical patriarchal domination.
– John Pallasma 

Originally from the central Appalachian mountain region in northeastern Pennsylvania, the area I grew up in rests over flooded and burning mines and is surrounded by abandoned coal breakers and shake piles. The industrial world that had once meant so much for my grandparents’ generation is a dead metaphor, surrounding and tunneling underneath the town. Not only has the economy shifted from local to global, but it has also shifted from manual to virtual. I am fascinated by the parallel paradigm shifts created by globalism and the Internet, and the effect they have had on how we understand the places we once thought we knew.

The models that I use are integral to my painting process and allow me to create images that are not based on ‘real space’ or a singular moment. My paintings are based on three-dimensional collages that I make of overlaid, chopped up, ripped and folded fragments of printed images that depict many genres, including vintage and current advertisements, post industrial landscapes and scientific illustrations. Created and found objects such as architectural models, clothing, rusting metals, organic matter, minerals and sculpture fragments are also intertwined to create multiple landscapes. All are arranged over multiple layers of two-dimensional planes of plexiglass, and viewed from above like an analog version of a layered Photoshop image.

News coverage of collapsed sweatshops blends with high fashion advertisements, bundles of discarded clothes from the thrift shop overlay images of dress patterns from the 1950’s. The spliced, sampled, and seemingly unrelated images and textures are combined in grayscale to create visual rhythms and resonances. From far away, the layered imagery appears to be a multifaceted jewel, but from close up emerges a destroyed and broken dystopic, visual ruin.

Through the paintings in this series I reflect on complexity in a global world. Something that looks to be in close proximity to something else may actually exist on a different layer and there are clues of this dissonance in the painting. I encourage the viewer to notice pattern and repetition, and to become an active viewer piecing together information and making connections when they are not obvious. My intention is that the viewer realizes that the cotton grown in North Carolina, dyed in China, sewn in Bangladesh, and sold in the US, ends up in a the community landfill when the wearer grows bored of it. Reflecting these tensions, my labor-intensive paintings require precision of the hand to remind the viewer of the relevance of the individual’s labor in the global economy.