The New Vanguard – Artist Profile: SADIE WEIS
Interview JUSTIN ROSS
4SEE puts a spotlight on young artists from the international art scene whom we deeply admire for their explosive talent and limitless creativity. We respect them even more for their tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds of fame and success in the hypercompetitive artworld. Their incomparable ability to let us share in feelings, emotions, ideas, issues, and concepts that count make us want to take a second and third look at their work. But it is their genuine passion for their art that comes through when you speak with these heavyweights of the art world in Berlin and New York—two of the cultural capitals of the world.
Name Sadie Weis
Medium Multi -Media, Installation, Painting, Sculpture. PolyMonotype Silkscreen, Video
Based in Berlin
Find more at www.sadieweis.com
Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?
In a sense, yes. It was apparent from childhood, as I was more interested in taking art classes for summer school instead of going to the pool. It only increased as I matured and I was also really involved in theater productions and especially designing sets and costumes and make-up. My mother kind of forbid me from pursuing art school for University, ‘You will never make a career that way, Sadie!’ So I appeased her and majored in Journalism while secretly making a second degree in Painting and Art History. When I got a big scholarship for art school, she eased up on me, a bit. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else any way. My brain just isn’t structured that way.
Do you find the artworld cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?
I have found a really supportive community, peer -wise in the art world. A lot of my friends are involved in filmmaking and performance, and we share skills and create wonderful projects together, so I feel really nurtured in this way. But also I have seen all facets of the artworld. I have had successes and then hit complete bottom which really burned my spirit. I have also spent some time on the business side of the artworld, PR wise, and seen a lot of shallow circumstances- sometimes it really does come down to who you know, who you surround yourself with, where you went to school, etc etc, and the true essence of the work can get lost in the thick of it. But I can say that alternatively, there are plenty of precious diamonds in the rough.
What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
Artistically speaking, I would say perhaps, when I approached sculpture, which challenged my perspective entirely.
I had the epiphany one bizarre night on a trip to Austria where I was teaching English and found myself in an eerie train station somewhere in what felt like the twilight zone in a dark end of the Czech Republic. I felt really alone and questioned where I was headed in life. Somehow this birthed the desire to build a life-size portal-like a transformational/reflection vessel – to respond to this feeling. Having never really built anything sculptural before, I had to teach myself, and it all came from experimentation. I made a drawing of the vision of the portal in my head and went from there. An artist friend of mine handed me a heat gun to try, and I started collecting treasures and stories, poems, gifts from friends, keepsakes that I had kept along my journey in life so, discarded artifacts from all over Berlin. I made constructions of these elements and started melting and piecing them together. The results turned out unexpectedly beautiful, like an allegory. From this point on I started my installation-based work.
A close second is when I self-transported an entire body of very fragile work in a huge van from Berlin to London for an exhibition there called, ironically entitled, Wanderlust, at the Lacey Contemporary Gallery. That was like a race against time, literally, through five countries and also via ferry without damaging the work (I didn’t) !
Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?
I tend to shy away for governmental politics, work-wise, but queer and relationship politics and historical references have and do play big roles in my work. My creations are indeed very aesthetic, but in a sense that they are mirroring an internal question. How do we find a sense of self within the intangible concept and vastness that is the universe? How fleeting and insignificant is one human life in the grand scheme of it all, and how do we defy the face of this knowledge?
If not politics, then what are the key sources of inspiration for you?
I approach art in a kind of spiritual and mystical sense, as I believe in the strength of one’s inner spirit to overcome obstacles and evolve as a person. My creative research is based in astronomy and astrology, space and time travel, fantasy, chemistry, alchemy, extraterrestrials, and the exploration of mystical and metaphysical realms. I can’t deny the presence of science in nature but also the sparkle in life and the power of astronomy and the stars…there are so many abstract constructs, but I appreciate how that leaves no one specific aphorism but for each to interpret for themselves.
I always find my interpretation of the universe to be a magical and enchanting one but paradoxically dystopian and futuristic. My philosophy in creating comes from the spiritual restoration of the journeys of the mind in relation to the life surrounding you – like a mental odyssey.
What is it like to live/work in Berlin?
I came to Berlin on a beautiful whim searching for a new artistic outlet. Previously I was living in New York, as much I loved the city, I found myself struggling to find a balance to support myself and have the capacity to grow.
Berlin is wonderfully vibrant, and like many metropolises. It is full of culture clashes and fascinating characters. I have network of beautiful creatures to inspire me. I find here that I am able to see the world in more colorful perspectives and possibilities.
Berlin is also historically fascinating and mythical. My studio, for example is in a former army barracks in an abandoned military airport called Johanistal. It was actually the second airport ever constructed in the world, and the odd thing is, few people, even Berliners realize it exists. There is huge abandoned airfield there full of decrepit hangers where they used to build zeppelins. I often go there to explore and think. It’s a big inspiration for me.
Besides offering a plethora of ‘space’ Berlin allows for more freedom of time. Before I came to Berlin, I was mostly working in 2-D with painting and silkscreen. I mentioned before that I had this intrensic awakening here of sorts, suddenly realized that I needed to move into sculptural installations in order to create all of the wonderworlds in my head. It was here also that I stared experimenting with chemistry and crystal growth, and now I make entire gardens of crystalized flora. The universe just seems to keep expanding here.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your artwork and at what scale?
That’s hard to say, the only thing I can really strive for is evolution, artistically and personally. My work keeps growing in scale, so I will need more space! I could imagine co-existing with all of my family of friends, children, animals- in the nature on something like a community farm-like environment where we can all support each other and share space and experiences- have multiple studios to interact and intersperse our ideas, a harmonious haven kind of thing. Also with a lab for science experimentation and alchemy. My plans for the future are to continue doing what I do- creating, learning, experimenting and using art to grow spiritually.