Sarah Williams
It is my belief that art should originate through a painter’s personal experiences in her home environment. I see my whole life as preparation for the way I paint and the work I am currently making. This body of work is closely focused on my roots in the rural American Midwest. Being raised in a small town and then moving to an urban setting has made me aware of the seemingly mundane, anonymous scenes existing on the periphery that tend to be ignored. Recently I have become conscious that I am compelled to paint what I know best which is the environment from which I come. My perception of a specific sense of place guides me while these local settings offer abundant material.

Strong emotions can be prompted by a place. Over time, ways of life shape and define the people and the spaces in which they live. I am drawn to areas and structures that show character acquired from the history and memory of the people that formed that environment. Aesthetically I am interested in light sources and the play of light on surfaces. This led me to paint nightscapes of familiar yet isolated and unremarkable buildings, rooms and scenes located in rural areas close to my home. I use darkness to edit out extraneous information and provide the viewer with the essence of the place. Portraying these settings as nightscapes allows me to convey the emotional tone of the painting. The viewer’s location is not specifically implied because of the light source within the paintings. They must find their own way and decide their own approach when out in the rural night depicted in these works.

While I render my subject in a representational manner I like to fracture the form and accentuate the light through brushwork. I believe this approach makes these settings visually captivating and eerily mysterious at the same time. The viewer starts to unravel the mood of the painting not only with the primary area of focus, but through the combination of the secondary and even tertiary areas of focus. A viewer’s eyes must adjust so they will be able to see these subtle nuances that complete the character of the place. The artistic language applied to slightly familiar yet hauntingly isolated areas permits me to transform the common place and make the insignificant significant.

Even though my connection to the small town farm culture that shaped me as I grew up played a major role in how I approach these works, I believe they can speak to people from a variety of places and experiences. Each viewer brings their own vantage point to the works. It could be that they are from similar environments and feel comforted by the imagery, or maybe it reminds them of cross country road trips. For some these desolate nightscapes may represent somewhere they hope to never find themselves alone. Whatever the case may be, it prompts viewers to draw upon the character and identity of their regional home when approaching these works.

I like the idea of bringing paintings of small town life to the contemporary art scene in urban settings. I hope my work allows people to think about where they come from and take pride in the collective identity of their home region.