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Meet Sara Rosenthal

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Rosenthal.

Sara, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have been creating since I was a young child and have had the same goals all my life: to be an artist and writer. When I was a baby, the only thing that would soothe me during a tantrum was to look through a small book of Impressionist artwork- and so a painter was born.

During high school, I pursued drama, opening up to acting and directing. The art department intimidated me and I convinced myself I was not good enough for them. Then in college during a study abroad semester on Paros Island in Greece, I shyly inquired if I might be able to take a painting class; my heart had begun to sing in the painting studio, surrounded by clay vessels and the smell of turpentine, with windows from the cobblestone alleyway streaming in bright light.

And so I did. That was almost a decade ago, and I have not stopped painting. Since then, I have continued my travels, completing artist residencies and presenting lectures, constantly throwing myself into the unknown realms of new media and themes of research. Although it still feels like I am only just beginning, I have exhibited my painting, performance, short film, mixed media installation, and writing work at galleries, museums, universities, and alternative spaces around the world. I have worked on collaborative performance projects in Greece, Finland, Italy, and Spain, and have graduated with a degree in Performance, Design, and Practice from Central Saint Martins in London.

Most recently, I have just returned from performing the work of another LA artist, Doni Silver Simons, at the Jerusalem Biennale in Israel, and will soon be departing for an artist residency in Athens, Greece. It is a constant navigation of uncertainty and financial precarity, this life of art, creation, and travel, but I wouldn’t trade it.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not always.

As I mentioned before, one of the greatest challenges I have faced- and continue to, every day- is self-doubt. Particularly when I am not actively engaged in making the work, my fear of inadequacy rears its ugly head and demands I heed its call, turning all my attention away from pursuing my path and instead worshipping at its big ugly feet.

I like to picture it in mythic terms, the self-doubt creature- because then I get to cast myself in whichever role I choose, and determine the course of my own internal narrative.

The other big issue is tri-fold. I’ll call it currency. Sometimes it manifests as space- finding studio space, finding storage space for paintings, finding space to create upon (i.e., stage, gallery, canvas) and exhibit from. Sometimes as time- there was one period of time where I was working five part-time jobs and it can be dizzying in the course of that hustle to carve out enough time for real art commitment. Applications take time. Creation takes time. Research takes time. Self-promotion and marketing takes time. And sometimes you just need time for thinking, for letting your ideas take shape and not rush them. We live in a culture that places a premium on speed- the faster you can spew information and splat it on social media, the better. When I really get into the zone, I sink into this timeless space, where normality melts away into the background and something else becomes apparent, blurred boundaries where gems of truth can appear… but letting myself approach that layer is nearly impossible when I might have to pack up and run to the next side gig in five minutes.

And of course, the third currency: money. Discerning which art supplies are significant enough to spend on, which museum exhibits are worth investing in, which contest or residency is worth paying for, while also determining how to allocate your resources towards rent, basic living expenses, and nourishment is a constant debate.

So it continues to be a bumpy road, although consistent in its inconsistency. I like to picture my goals as a mountain, and the path to them, whether wild and unpaved, or smooth in parts, is always moving towards that same direction. Even if I sometimes make crazy detours into wild overgrown thorny uncharted territory so I can hack my way through to some clarity and get back on the road again.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an artist. I have gone by Sara True and am now transitioning back into using my family name, Rosenthal. I paint large-scale abstract acrylic paintings and smaller scale semi-abstract narrative ones. My work draws from ritual, myth, and deconstructing language; there is always a pulsing energy whether the specific work is meant to provoke, challenge, calm, or interact.

For multimedia installations and short films, I assemble teams of actors, designers, musicians, dancers, and performers of all types- I love drawing out people’s hidden skills and abilities and capturing their vulnerabilities and beauty on camera. I used to run women’s circles in LA, where I would facilitate meditations and storysharing exercises, and I draw upon those skills to create a safe atmosphere for taking risks in my projects.

These short films usually take the form of semi-abstract myths and fables adapted from my own original stories. I take pride in noticing the details of an unusual landscape and weaving together multimedia elements; there is often a delicious moment when, in the course of a particularly hard day, something clicks and everyone involved in production can feel all these elements settle and merge together. That’s when you know it was worth it when something new has been created. I love the mystery and the raw creative force in that.

Aspects of embodiment feature heavily in my writing as well as my other art forms- the short stories I write are sensuous and evoke tactile details, while my live performances feature edible or olfactory elements. I believe it is important that the reader of an artwork be able to engage with the intuitive intelligence of their body, in addition to analyzing with the mind.

When I first started performing, it was either in galleries where my paintings were shown or in queer cabarets in Los Angeles and London. I love the charge the audience brings in a cabaret setting, and the emphasis on humour and excess has definitely influenced me to create more boldly, revealing more without fear of not being taken seriously, and reveling in the joyful struggle of the process.

I love to research; I find that quest for knowledge thrilling, and that factor plays heavily in my creative process. Lately, I have been focusing on an as-yet-unformed multimedia project entitled “Ghosts of the Anthropocene”, a lyrical poetry exhibition addressing climate change and the disappearance of birds.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Sweet question.

What first springs to mind is a specific feeling that happened many times, of laying on the carpeted floor of my bedroom, on my belly, feeling the sunshine in through the window, drawing with markers and crayons, watching dust illuminated in the light, on a late afternoon.

It is the most warm and safe memory I can imagine, with my mother in the other room, my brothers somewhere else, a reconvening of family sure to come in a few hours, but for that moment, a deep and private dip into long slow time.

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