Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sarah Folkman's work is based on her fascination with nature and intense confusion with humanity's place within it. Using exotic woods as her canvas and infusing each painting with our symbiotic relationship with nature, Folkman fleshes out the female figure in the most captivating ways. As one of the artists participating in the 'Femme Fatale' show opening February 25th, we had a chat with this unique artist. Here Sarah talks about her love for a sparrow, why she prefers to work with raw woods and her fascination with the female figure.
Your art is a continuous exploration of the nude female form and you have even stated, ‘I love painting skin, layers and layers of it…’ What is it about the female figure that you find so intriguing and inspiring?
I like the vulnerability and honesty of an unclothed person and I’m fascinated by the colors within skin - how quickly they can shift and act as an emotional barometer. As for the female aspect, my paintings always start from something intensely personal - and up to this point, if I’m directing that through a human a figure, it has made sense to have it be female. I do intend to branch out into male nudes this year - though it’s somehow more daunting to ask a man to strip and let me scrutinize him from all angles. I feel a great desire to explore the masculine musculature and skeleton, strip off a few layers of skin, see what I might find.
In addition to the figurative elements, birds are a constant theme in your paintings as well. Tell us more about this. What symbolic meaning do these creatures hold for you?
The birds have all been inspired by the sparrow who lived (un-caged) with me for 4 ½ years. While I’d always had deep and sympathetic relationships with all sorts of animals, he brought the world of bird personality into my mind and daily life with astounding detail and clarity. So, I wouldn’t say that birds are symbols for me - it’s more that the birds I paint are echos of the heartbreaking love I felt for one particular sparrow.
Using exotic woods such as Wenge, Zebrawood and Sapele as your canvas, simultaneously adds a bit of transparency while heightening the texture within your work. What about this medium attracts you over traditional canvas and paper?
The various woods all take the paint differently and impose constraints on my technique. I must be more controlled and deliberate - it’s a challenge. Plus, the right grain can be very like human flesh and influence the story I’m trying to tell. With canvas I allow my craziness to stalk around a bit more - it’s easier to hide under another layer of paint if it gets to be too much, something I can’t do with the raw wood.
If you could hang only one artwork from art history in your home or studio, what would it be and why?
One? Impossible. It would be entirely influenced by my frame of mind when I chose and I’d end up with something I’d have to cover up half the time because of the emotions it’d bring up. And you don’t do that to a painting.
Tell us something about yourself we wouldn’t necessarily know.
I have a deep well of rage within my soul and I like climbing trees.
If I were to spend the day with Sarah what could I expect?
You could expect me to ask you to leave so I could get some work done - or I might ply you with alcohol and try to get you to go dancing.