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Work Samples

Large Abstract 1.jpg

"Large Abstract 1"- Latex Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4'

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"Large Abstract 2"- Latex Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4'

Dancers.jpg

"Dancers"- Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4'

Young Man.JPG

"Young Man" Pastel on toned paper. 16"x20"

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About Sarah

Baltimore City

Sarah Curry's picture
I am a Baltimore city native and a former high school technology teacher with ten years combined experience working at both private and city schools and for non-profits. I taught Website Design, Computer Applications, Java and C++ Object Oriented Programming, Intoduction to BASIC  Programming, and an Intro to Law class. While earning my Bachelors Degree in Information Systems at the College of Notre Dame Of Maryland, I also took almost a Minors worth of Art Classes. Over the years my primary... more

Realistic Work: Portraits and Life Drawing

The charcoal portrait drawings were drawn at home after sketching each model from life at the Schuler School of Fine Art to hone my portait drawing skills with a focus on anatomy, form, light and shade, likeness, and authenticity. The casts were copies completed at home to explore the mass of the human head and also how light affects that mass. The pastel life drawings were drawn from models at the MICA Open Sessions life drawing classes in the evenings. The pastel portraits were drawn from models at the Jewish Community Center.

Vortices: Introduction and Large Abstract 1

Abstract Work Overview: Process Evolution and Post Analysis

Although the works were not painted in the order presented, for the purposes of this portfolio, I have ordered and categorized the pieces as follows: The work is divided into three primary groups: Vortices (Projects 2 -7), Manuscriptions (Project 3 - 9), and Hybrids (Project 10).

  • Vortices (Projects 2-7):
    • Vortex works are an exploration of circular forms and movement.
  • Manuscriptions (Projects 3-9)
    • Manuscriptions are a study of calligraphic mark making.
  • Hybrids: (Project 10)
    • Hybrids combine both Vortex and Manuscription characteristics.


The first group of Abstract Paintings: Vortices progress from multi-color, large, loose, random, fluid, circular movements to more monochromatic, concrete, symbolic aggregations with multiplicity as a common motif. The effects are ornamental but organic. The paint flows and interacts naturally reflecting designs, processes, and patterns in nature both macro and micro: planets, stars, land masses, oceans, rivers, streams, light rays, subatomic particles, plants, trees, branches, clouds, sky, radiation, etc., with an emphasis on color and surface.

Project 1 Description: Large Abstract 1

A burst of colorful sections and pieces that roll and ripple across the flat surface, this kaleidoscopic work demands closer inspection. Broken, salmon-colored bits distributed pell mell anchor and unify the flotsam and jetsam that clusters and clamors on top pushing and pulling for space.
Dense, white, ribboned sections curl and fold creating small sovereign cracked, crusted, and cratered tessellations streaked with bands of color that shelter super abundant colonies of thriving, tiny, fragile organic cell-like forms decorated with cilia, protected with outer walls and full of mysterious, translucent inner bodies.

Smears of rainbow colors and ornate mosaic sections evoke organic patterned bird and insect wings, opalescent fish scales, horny turtle shells, and snake and reptile skin. The dark edges nurture and insulate sentient forms: new life clamors to join the active pulsing center, a swirl of chaos rotating windmill-like around and emanating outward from the planar surface in an energetic rush of color and movement, seeking to push past the world’s edge of the painting’s sides.

Plain, empty, bright yellow and white forms suspended throughout provide some rest spots for the eyes. Dense, phallic, blood red offshoots spike through the fructuous mix racing rocketlike outward. Minuscule forms with weight, purpose, and direction congregate and spin out in different groups, racing to find their proper place in the turbulent mix.

Vortices: Large Abstract 2

The works are tactile and demand to be touched, an often overlooked component of traditional painting. The surfaces vary from thick to thin, shiny to dull, cracked to whole, sheer to opaque, mixed colors to pure colors, bumpy to smooth, frenetic to meditative.

This large work is a maelstrom of movement with large, crusty pieces that seem to float across the liquid surface, evoking the natural world of Earth and water. The primordial, soupy mix is full of energized peninsulas, which reach out to explore the thick, liquid surface like giant fingers. Hundreds of bubbly, white cell-like clusters tag along for the ride, dispersing themselves within the larger space, often anchoring themselves on edges and currents.

Pink and grey netting forms from the chaotic movement and stretches to encapsulate dense, broken, black rock-like masses that both thrust and climb and settle and drop, suggesting both spewing lava, tempestuous water, and blazing, hot earth. Bright, red liquid color dispersed throughout pulses and splashes amongst the aggregate more solid masses that crack and break as the bloody pigment rushes to fill and follow the chaotic movement.

Large, circular swirls give some structure and direction to the swarming pieces crammed together and ripe with purpose, set upon their course by the energy and direction exerted on them. Craters and streams, cracks and crevices, zig zags and exploding peaks race along with the slippery currents and pounding waves. The matter jostles and propels until an equilibrium has been reached. As the energy comes to rest, the matter dries and settles into a freeze frame, which opens a split-second window into the fantastical world created.

Vortices: Large Abstract 3

The large works create a field experience where the viewer can be immersed in the color, pattern, texture, movement, and spectacle of paint that hopefully engages, challenges, and visually satisfies.

A multicolor painting heavily textured with dry areas that split, crumble and break down, the work brims with frenzied movement and frantic forms that crash and push up against its borders in turbulent waves. The manipulated paint swirls, undulates, and pools, forming a curious terrain with discrete sections that struggle to exist in the general whirlpool.

Paint drags and skips along the surface, creating mini-countercurrents and fractured tides that surge and swell recklessly, carving out random gullies. Whips of paint lash out, but are dragged along, buckling and bending with the flow. Some are captured and redirected in mini-vortices.

Glossy, thick, red appendages branch out like missiles, rocketing helter-skelter in the miry mix. Small forms jettison off and become encapsulated, forming curious satellites full of cell-like forms and random debris. Smeared and streaked paint, resembling mini tornadoes, rend and tear through the tumultuous surface.

Vortices: Blue Swirls and Black Swirls

I started working on small canvases at first, but then moved on to bigger ones. After that I moved on to huge wood panels, which felt surprisingly comfortable. Playing with the paint, I looked for visual effects that interested me. It became a sort of treasure hunt. When I found an effect, process, texture, or color combination I liked, I brought that to the next work.

  • Blue Swirls.jpg

    "Blue Swirls"-Latex Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' A collection of blue and white vortices that spiral in even rows with smaller vortices emerging from in between, this work evokes both water and sky. The different spirals drag aggregate clusters of smaller, round, white and grey micro-forms, which are captured in the rolling movement and orbit like mini-satellites. The smaller whirlpools vibrate, hovering and suspended in the foreground.
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    "Blue Swirls"-Latex Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' Mini hurricanes collide and combine power in this large, monochromatic work. Huge, white gashes are formed in the thick, lustrous black paint. Discrete, chunky masses churn hap-hazardously in the cyclonic commotion. Patterns of ripples fan out from the stormy eyes. A fragile netting is formed in the painting process that cocoons and protects those rocky ejections that are belched up and vomited out of this curious factory.
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Vortices: Bronze Disks, Silver Wheels, and Twins

It felt like directed play of sorts. I ended up with a series of large canvases and 4ft by 4 ft works of primarily latex paint on wood panels that are related in their rhythm of stroke, application of paint: free pouring and then redirecting with various tools , reliance on texture created from underpaintings, layering, sometimes sanding, and accidents galore, which I was mindful enough at times to repeat as needed.

Reminder from Project Overview: The first group of Abstract Paintings: Vortices progress from multi-color, large, loose, random, fluid, circular movements to more monochromatic, concrete, symbolic aggregations with multiplicity as a common motif.

  • Bronze Disks.jpg

    "Bronze Disks" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' This work showcases big, archetypical, circular forms: one massive one at center with similar, but not identical smaller versions orbiting it closely in a set pattern approximately equidistant from each other and the larger sphere that brings to mind the fecund earth and other organic forms like planets, stars, flowers, and cells. The forms emit curious rays that further reinforces the living quality.
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  • "Silver Wheels".jpg

    "Silver Wheels" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' Composed of raised, tessellated pin wheel forms, this crowded, black and silver work glows and pulses with movement. The blades intersect in some places in a silent, syncopated, clicking rhythm that hums along.
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  • Twins.jpg

    "Twins" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' Sixteen ovoid forms connected by dual bridges fill this large black, silver, and bronze work. Black paint scraped over the forms pulls behind them, forming strong circular shadow shapes that loom in the background. Each sphere is edged in silver and textured with black paint that fills the recessed spaces to create sixteen different balls. Dissimilarity supplants similarity in this piece. The mind naturally seeks out the variance. The orb in the lower corner splits and draws attention by virtue of its uniqueness.
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Simple Manuscriptions: Black, Blue, Red and Black, Red Gold and Black, and Splitting Red Form

I shunned paint brushes and used common kitchen and other home improvement tools: knives, forks, spatulas, chop sticks, putty and joint knives, windshield scrapers, rakes and other improvised tools like wooden sticks of different sizes and cuts to manipulate the paint: scratch, scrape, stress, mar and gouge the surfaces, often using both hands in tandem at times to create patterns that were interconnected, tangled, intertwined, interactive.

Manuscriptions: The word manuscriptions breaks down to the prefix manu, which means hand, and the root word script, which means writing. This group of paintings explores graphic mark making: Tight to loose, large to small, one hand vs two, fingers and hands vs various tools, deep vs shallow, etc. This group ends with the marks creating form in" Red Splitting Form".

  • Black Manuscription.jpg

    "Black Manuscription" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' The gouged marks resemble some esoteric writing whose message cannot be ciphered. It cannot be read left to right, but must be absorbed all at once. It has no real message save for the enjoyment of the curved channels and rivulets pitted against one another, which combine in a loose to tight relationship, lassoing the embedded marks and partitioning them into curious, recessed sets of of different shapes and sizes, resembling cuneiform or hieroglyphics in the constricted, slightly bulging space.
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    "Blue Manuscription" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' This active, monochromatic work covered in interconnected, deeply gouged, large semi-circles, which create repeating patterns of irregular, parallel, dark blue, recessed divots is gently sanded to uncover the lighter colors beneath.
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  • Red and Black Manuscription.jpg

    "Red and Black Manuscription" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' A frenzy of interconnected, overlapping, circular marks that create a Morse code of dots, dashes, and stripes, this disturbing, salacious work evokes dark impulses and lack of restraint. The lurid, red pulses through and fills the dark, metallic background that is rend to small, discrete pieces.
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    "Red, Black, and Gold Manuscription" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' This work has a tighter script, which divides the space into more detailed carved out patterns of concentric looping and circular marks that move randomly and energetically criss-cross the glossy surface with quite a bit of overlap. Blood red, black, and gold colors are scraped across to capture and highlight the embossed surface, creating a somewhat lurid, luxurious field that demands to be explored with hands, eyes, and mind inch by spectacular inch like god’s Braille.
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  • Red Splitting Form.jpg

    "Red Splitting Form Manuscription" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' This lustrous, bright red, heavily textured work reflects light, highlighting the multi-ridged surface beneath, which forms a metallic butterfly like pattern in the lower half that ripples out to the edges. The work has a slightly garish, feminine energy and a highly tactile veneer.
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Evolving Manuscriptions: Blue Flower, Forest for the Trees, Uroboros, Burial, and Dancers

Most of the works were created with no real end result in mind. The paint was poured, scraped, and manipulated with various unorthodox tools. Some were rotated repeatedly to move the paint around the canvas. Some were old paintings layered over with additional coats of paint and then scraped and/or sanded to reveal the texture and hidden pattern of the colored shapes beneath.

In these projects the manuscriptions evolve to more complex figurative forms: botanical, zoomorphic, and anthropomorphic.

  • "Blue Flower": botanical
  • "Forest for the Trees": botanical
  • "Uroboros": zoomorphic
  • "Burial": zoomorphic and anthropomorphic
  • "Dancers": anthropomorphic
  • Blue Flower.jpg

    "Blue Flower" Latex and Acrylic on Canvas. 20"x24" This heavily textured, primarily blue and black work, embellished with yellow and red accents, features a recessed, plantlike apparition, rising amidst a tempest of glossy black.
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  • Forest for the Trees.jpg

    "Forest for the Trees" Latex, Acrylic, and Spray Paint on Canvas. 30"x 40" This primarily green and yellow, back lit work with bronze relief is layered with many coats of sanded paint that provide both variegated color, texture, and a polished surface. Paramecium like forms with yellow halos are suspended in a dense foliage- like, latticed landscape rife with secret movement. A tightly woven, trellis-like grid supports the verdant activity.
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    "Uroboros" Latex and Acrylic on Canvas. 30"x 40" This whimsical work features a sinuous, white, serpentine form knotted and entangled atop a vivid patchwork backdrop of grass green, black, bright orange, and sky blue colors. The horizontally squeegeed surface produces a slightly smeared and blurred linear effect, which pulls threads of color through the scrambled white form and multi-color background. The black, glossy, latex paint glistens and breaks into micro cracks.
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    "Burial" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x 4' The flowing paint becomes figurative in this black and red work with silver undertones. The surface is lurid and thick with both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic alien shapes, which cluster around the fallen figure on the lower left. The skins are split with jagged tears and pitted with punched holes. Thin, tenuous lines suspended around and between them connect them like puppets in some surreal, violent drama. The elongated figures fill the space making, it hard to look away from the curious carnage.
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    "Dancers" Latex and Spray Paint on Wood Panel. 4'x 4' The thin, flowing, bronze lines fill the foreground of this work with erratic movement and awkward grace like attenuated figures trying to traverse the space. Scraping black paint over top creates muted bronze cut out shapes that provide both light and support for the wiry gesticulations. Thinner, threadlike connectors in the background keep the vertical dancers upright and linked to each other in their common shimmy. Heavy, polymorphic joints pop out and support the steps.
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Devolving Manuscriptions: SouthWest, Fossilized, Flight, Petroglyph, and Golden Billboard

In this set the manuscriptions devolve from simple ornamentation in "Southwest" and "Fossilized" to minimalist markings in "Flight" and "Petroglyph" and finally to "Golden Billboard" where the graphic marks disappear altogether.

  • Southwest
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  • Flight
  • Petroglyph
  • Golden Billboard
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    "Southwest" Latex, Acrylic, and Spray Paint on Canvas. 24"x 30" Heavy sanding of the leathery surface formed by layered paint reveals a pattern of slim, white bone-like shards from the embossed strata beneath. The smoothed ridges thread through the composition in a lost and found motif. Other colored pieces of blue and yellow emerge from the burnt orange background, producing an ornamental, carved hide effect.
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    "Fossilized" Latex and Acrylic Paint on Canvas. 30"x 40" This highly textured work of lightly sanded and burnished paint pulses with erratic movement. A frenzy of petrified forms: arcs, circles, and compressed matter fill the canvas, dense at the center, but diaphanous and shadowy toward the transparent edges. The interior resembles compressed and flattened ancient forms.
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  • Flight.jpg

    "Flight" Latex, Acrylic, and Spray Paint on Canvas. 30"x40" This dark, highly-textured work, dusted with silver and gold spray paint, emits a metallic gleam from both the silver undercoat, which shows through the cracked surface and the glossy, black, latex paint lightly sponged on top that sticks to the raised ridges only. The jagged, silver cuts clamor together at the top of the canvas, zig-zagging upward in concerted tandem. The darker bottom half of the work lends weight to support the liftoff.
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  • Petroglyph.jpg

    "Petroglyph" Latex, Acrylic, and Spray Paint on Canvas. 30"x40" This primarily black, grey, white and gold spray painted work resembles prehistoric rock. Scratched, chipped, and cracked with narrow channels, engraved fissures, and chiseled micro-ridges, the distressed surface gleams with a timeworn patina. Minuscule splinters of primary color peak unexpectedly through the crust along with countless incised, white, razor cuts. Parallel bands of scratched tracks randomly criss-cross the polished surface.
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  • Golden Billboard.jpg

    "Golden Billboard" Latex, Acrylic, and Spray Paint on Canvas. 30"x40" The stressed and weathered looking skin of of this large rectangular work with its bumps, scrapes, scuffs, and vertical and horizontal striations is gilded in places with gold and silver spray paint producing an incongruous effect. The beaten and corroded surface glints and glows from the metallic hues and the gloss white and black latex paint. Tiny fragments of randomly scattered, primary colors embellish the eroded composition.
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Hybrids and Closing: Red and Blue Hands, Stellar, and Blue Stars

Synthesis of both: Project 10

These Hybrid paintings combine both aspects from the Vortex series as well as characteristics from Manuscriptions.

In "Red and Blue Hands" graphic hand marks are clawed onto the slick surface into deconstructed circles.

In "Stellar" marks are more mechanical, linear rather than circular, but lurking behind the dense grid is a halo of concentric, circular rings radiating outward.

In "Blue Stars" clusters of star forms float in a lucent space full of snaking, scaled forms.

Conclusion:
My original goal in working abstractly was to just get out of the rut of drawing so tightly and holding on so dearly to old habits. I really enjoyed the freedom of working without being tethered to an object. I didn’t know going in that my mind and the process itself would provide all the reference points I needed. I was amazed how quickly and purposefully I could work just building on each step and trusting my intuition and curiosity to take me to that next step.

My future goal will be to use the process of producing abstract art and apply it to my portrait and figure drawing and painting: to explore the face and body without being so shackled to likeness, proportion, perspective, anatomy, etc. Also, I will use my new abstract skills to create a space for my subjects, which amplifies, respects, and reflects more dimensions of their uniqueness and inner worlds.

In addition, I will continue working to advance and expand my Vortices, Manuscriptions, and Hybrids and to hopefully create new categories, directions, and approaches to working abstractly.

Important Closing Note: The narrative presented was not pre-planned but revealed itself as all the works from the last two years were laid out for inspection, sorting, and analysis, like gigantic thumbnails on an epic storyboard.

Thanks for taking the time to share my journey and my story.

  • Red and Blue Hands.jpg

    "Red and Blue Hands" Latex paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' A manic frenzy of mark making, this work features deconstructed circular forms that are manipulated and smeared to near obliteration. The garish, red and royal blue colors clawed on top come forward against a cool background of chalkboard black marred with ghostly scribbles and random vertical and horizontal lines.
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  • Stellar.jpg

    "Stellar" Latex paint on Wood Panel. 4'x4' This densely packed, active work vibrates with energy, bringing to mind the singularity of the Big Bang or a black hole. The rapid, multi-directional, physical force exerted to move the paint creates the multicolor cuts and generates a reaction that causes the interstices to ripple and quaver as evidenced by the squiggly paint. The Stygian background teems with a virtually inexhaustible supply of discrete units of variable size that vie for space. The cool center radiates out to warmer edges in concentric rings.
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  • Blue Stars.jpg

    "Blue Stars" Latex paint on Canvas. 30"x 40" This multilayered work in hues of bright blue, patina green, orange, gold and silver pops and vibrates due to the complimentary colors. Multiple, star like forms come forward in shallow relief. Ghostly, scaled, snake-like forms float about creating a mysterious, murky, aqueous background. Paramecium and leaf like shaped forms echo the watery effect. A blue wash mottled on top amplifies it even more. Gold flecks sparkle through and light up the submerged world. Unwashed areas show through even brighter.
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