When we decided to redesign our webpage I knew that I wanted an artist to inspire and influence the graphic design of the page in order to evoke a spirit of authenticity. Sarah Boyts Yoder is a mixed media artist that I have long admired for her lively and colorful abstract paintings so when she announced her interest in collaboration I was thrilled. A few emails later the piece by Sarah Boyts Yoder for Upcyclista was in steady progress. Upcyclista ended up not only inspired by her work but also with a reinterpreted logo that is a detail from the final artwork. The logo will be seen throughout our platforms during a period of time. After our work together I had loads of questions for Sarah so we organized an interview.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’ve always loved art and wanted to be an artist. I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, a town with a really great modern art museum. I remember seeing all the contemporary paintings there and just falling in love. Luckily I had good teachers each step of the way through school who encouraged me and took an interest. I ended up going to graduate school at JMU in Virginia, mostly because I didn’t really know what else to do. It ended up being the best thing because it really solidified my commitment to artmaking and formed the identity of my work and my self as an artist. I’ve had two children who really influenced my perspective and methods—they’ve helped me to take things less seriously and to be efficient with my studio time. They’re still young so sometimes finding extended time in the studio is hard but as I said above, it has it’s advantages.
How did you interpret Upcyclista for this project? What ideas did first come to your mind?
When I thought about this concept on a larger scale, what it seems to really be all about is imagination. Seeing things in a new way, being willing to look past history, function, culture—because we can, it’s possible. Creativity and imagination are just about the best parts of being human. I also love that it has a lean towards mindfulness. We reuse and re-create things and objects so we can be more thoughtful with our limited resources. And it’s about indepencence too.
I love that the final piece originate from the first and it is truly remarkable to see the artwork change and develop. Can you explain how the piece progressed?
Usually my process is to go crazy at first with color and shape…then edit and scale it back little by little using layers of paint, cutting and rearranging. Then adding more back slowly until I reach an equilibrium–a balance. It feels like I’m getting it right when the work starts to look sophisticated, but also casual and slightly awkward.
This time was kind of the opposite, I started out fairly minimal and then we worked together as I added more and more layers until it felt right. One of the first images that came to mind was an arrow pointing ‘up’, suggesting movement and improvement or change. I added that first and then we went from there with color and shape. I love collaborating on pieces for specific projects. It takes that idea of problem solving and makes it a team effort.
In my first email to you I said something about how Upcycling sometimes remind me of a collage in that you pick the most attractive and intriguing pieces and put them together to form a new unit. Just like your paintings are mixed media collages. What material and techniques have you used for this project?
Lots! Paper, canvas, pencil, paint markers, latex paint, glue, scraps of older projects and drawings and paintings. The scraps are the intriguing part because they have their own history. They bring an already existing identity to the equation and my job is to make it all fit together and make sense.
I’m constantly cutting up old or existing works and putting them back together, painting over top and then cutting it all up again. It was a similar process with this piece.
You also told me that you sometimes use “up cycled paint”. Can you elaborate on that?
After we talked I realized that probably 90% of the paint and materials I use are ‘up cycled’ I use almost all interior latex house paint that I find at the hardware store in the ‘oops’ section. This means someone bought a can of paint, in a specific color, then changed their minds and brought it back to the store. It guarantees unique colors and is really inexpensive. I find other tape and random papers at thrift stores or clearance sections.
I like using something that already exists-not buying something new but rather choosing to be improvisational with one’s materials and process. Using unexpected or random colors and materials are a way of making the process interesting. Also I like the idea using something that someone else deemed a mistake. It’s been cast off and rejected–but now rescued and reused. Discoveries are fun!
I view painting like solving a problem, usually one you pose to yourself, but still. It helps strike a balance between discovery and control. Which makes for the best work.
Do you practice any other Upcycling?
I love using my imagination and discovering clothing (for myself and my kids) and furniture at thrift stores. I’ll never turn down a good thrift shop.
What I mentioned before about being independent? Our culture NEVER stops telling you to buy more stuff—that you need more stuff. It takes effort to close your eyes to that and do something different. I keep thinking of that Macklemore song “Thrift Shop”—and the line ‘I call that getting tricked by a businesssss’! Seriously though, I love shopping as much as the next person, I’m just glad sites like upcyclista exist and that it’s becoming easier and more trendy to DIY or buy secondhand.
Another thing that helped convince me that you were the right person for this project was the quote by Ricky Gervais on your webpage that goes;
“The only thing that matters is, did it turn out like I wanted it? If you’re chasing after positive reviews, demographic trends or a lucrative box office, you’ve already failed. But, if your only ambition is to get something off your chest and render it exactly as you wanted it, then you’re bulletproof”.
When I say that Upcycling is an attitude and that our mission is to celebrate originality I mean something quite like this. Can you tell me what this means to you and how it is reflected in your work?
To me, this says so much about being honest with and true to yourself. It means sincerely trying to know who or what you are in the first place and then always listening and looking to that to steer yourself through your work. I think if you’re being honest, you can’t help but be original and ‘bulletproof’…there’s not one other person who sees things the way you do.
What is your plan for the near future?
As I write this I am in the middle of a fellowship studio residency program at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. It’s a lovely farm turned artist sanctuary with studios and residences near my home in Charlottesville. I’ve been getting lots of painting work done and enjoying the quiet. I’m looking forward to exhibitions coming up in December at Jericho Advisors Gallery in Charleston, SC and Honfluer Gallery Washington DC in March.
My plan is usually just to make as much good work as I possible can and figure out how to put it where other people can see it!
Many massive thanks for working with us Sarah, we are superhappy with the artwork and this was truly an inspiring interview. I am very happy with how you interpreted Upcyclista, and understood that Upcyclista (and Upcycling) is by many many means a lot about independency and honesty. I also believe that admitting that we love to shop is a necessary starting point if we really want change. Thanks for sharing the studio shots too, what a beautiful creative mess!
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