Nine years after her first solo show as an established illustrator, Sarah Beetson has not only retained the vivaciously original personality that defined her work from the beginning, but she’s also managed to expand it across three continents, working with various galleries, publications and organizations along the way. Things get loud inside the ever-expanding Juicyfruit bubble that surrounds her imagery, and though the illustrations are the core, it’s the composition that raises questions, in the best way possible.
The artist’s background in fashion comes through in her work, especially in her portrayal of the human form, walking the line somewhere between surreal and all-too familiar. Currently based out of Australia, Sarah is still producing characteristically saturated work, blurring the lines between public and personal in a single, methodically and preciously composed visual assault.
To call it collage would be a grotesque understatement, but to call it mixed media is to saddle it with an equally cumbersome umbrella term. Sarah’s work, from her personal files to various commissions is a map of ins and outs, of pop culture and the psyche of the modern westerner. A connection I made immediately was that between the sheer volume of imagery within her work and the imagery we are subject to on a daily basis. There’s a persistence there, a twenty-first century approach to communication, and it’s hard to distinguish between real and artificial. There’s the advertisement that’s also a mural that’s also a photo and might end up on your t-shirt after it goes viral. Sarah’s work is a testament, perhaps a twin force to that torrent of images, except on such a scale that they are still accessible, still giving us a minute to appreciate the singular spirit that went into their creation. They are Sarah sketched, Sarah complete, Sarah laughing and Sarah wondering, and it’s hard not to notice all the similarities we share.
I’d like to take a moment to focus on the “Personal Work” section of Sarah’s portfolio, because a title like that feels like an answer to any lingering questions, and I think this particular artist’s personal musings are worth figuring out. The Coney Island pieces especially, done during a three-month visit to NYC are something I can speak about from the heart, having grown up in Brooklyn. Coney Island, though it’s inching towards mediocrity like so much of the city, still has some of it’s old soul, the stupid charm that drove me crazy as an eight year old- the F train dragging itself down the tracks, but nevertheless promising to make a day of it. I did not know the place in it’s freaky heyday, but I do know its unique brand of dark humor. It’s that peppermint-patterned darkness that Sarah captures perfectly in her Coney Island pieces, and it fits right in with her other influences, interests, and emotional palette. The fact that she can take her realities and translate them so that their specific spells stay intact, just amplified tenfold, is what distinguishes her as a creator.