I recently interviewed Sarah Dougherty, Slanguage’s Green Resident Artist about her contributions to Slanguage, and how that relates to her other work as an artist and who she is. Here’s what she said…
Sarah, could you tell us about what you’re doing as our Green Resident Artist?
I recently came with a group of UCLA MFA graduate students to find out what Slanguage was up to. Mario gave us a tour and when I saw the plot on the sidewalk I had an instantaneous idea to do a vertical garden on that site. And so now I have been following through on that idea. E.J., another artist here at Slanguage has been my awesome partner on this project.
How does this relate to the other work you do?
I have been doing a lot of gardening this past year and I had never done a vertical garden, but this seemed appropriate. Like this garden, all my work is site specific. I do research at the site first, exploring a home, neighborhood, the people there, the activities happening, and the plants in the area. I love to study the history of plants and people and trace where things come from.
I approached this garden in the same way, testing the soil, the sand and clay content, and using some of the native plants, some of which happen to be edible and medicinal, like the mallow. We planted baby plants in containers to see how they would acclimate to Wilmington soil first. We made the containers from stuff in the studio and everything we are using, like the wood for the structure, is also scrap wood we found here. The idea is to be resourceful to not have to buy things. The cactus was donated by one of Slanguage’s neighbors, and I brought some succulents from home. Everyone has a hand in it. It has been a Wilmington based effort that is holistic, and very collaborative.
We also placed the Virginia on the back of the stump for good fortune and I painted the Pachamama, the Bolivian mother earth on the face of the stump. We will also paint dwarves on the fence, part of a Filipino legend that they live in the earth and you must ask their permission to walk the earth. So we are really creating new mythological history on the spot, which fits in with many of the different incarnations that have occurred on the plot. If someone comes and destroys it, that’s ok, because it is eternally changing.
I also lent out a worm compost bin for the Food Fight drawing class and we will soon harvest that compost to use in the soil. They will contribute to the seeds growing again, demonstrating this sense of renewal and change.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I grew up in Richmond, VA. I did my undergrad at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I didn’t feel very connected to the art department and studied Latin American studies, but still took art courses with the professors I did feel more connected to. Simultaneously I was developing a consciousness around Latin American economies and people, knowledge, aesthetic and artmaking. My mother for example is someone I have learned a lot from in terms of arranging things. She has set up her home using things from Bolivia, objects from my father, really composing her home. In 2007 I traveled to Mexico because I had been doing art education programs with Latino youth in North Carolina, and wanted to experience more how creativity was taught there and also to understand my students better. I rented a room in downtown Mexico City and did paintings there of the city. I was really interested in the landscapes that were both urban and rural, looking at plants and people, and wilderness and domesticated nature.
Now as a grad student at UCLA I am still exploring home décor and landscaping and have become more connected to architecture. I am doing an installation in my studio of the hill behind the graduate studio spaces in Baldwin Hills. Part of the installation was painted at the hill site, and uses sculpture and landscaping as other elements.
This winter I was able to travel to Bolivia with my mom, a place where people really have deep love for the earth; it’s definitely a big part of the culture. Also the décor in Latin America is not just about what manifests on the surface, but there is symbolic value and history in it. I was really moved by the décor in one the homes I visited that I am now making a diorama of this home. I am also working on several gardens and really happy to be here collaborating with Slanguage.
Thanks Sarah! You can read more about Sarah and her work by visiting her website: http://www.roomportraits.com/index.html