Senior Sarah Lewiecki is known for her paintings featuring pastel hues of blue and pink, lucid symbols and ever-present symmetry. Audiences can expect many of these prevailing themes in her upcoming show, The Blood Sport Oracles of Parallax City, but with additional exploration of spirituality as seen in The Offering Room combined with new exploration of video as featured in Sicko.
I sat down with Sarah to learn more about her latest, and final, show as an undergrad at Wake Forest.
Photo by Ben Campbell
Julia: So to start out, can you tell me a little about the name of the show and how it came about?
Sarah: The Bloodsport Oracles of Parallax City is a bit of complicated title, so it’s easiest to explain in parts. The words come from a group of poems that I wrote earlier this semester while trying to understand my initial ideas for the show.
To start with the first chunk, “the blood sport oracles” is supposed to represent spiritual entities that are ethereal, fierce beings. They’re non-human and immortal, like deities. Most importantly, however, they distribute and absorb truth, so their identity as a group holistically encompases other types of truth-seekers, such fortune tellers or philosophers, specifically logicians.
Parallax City is a place that I’ve imagined and am trying to recreate through the installation component of this project. The city is about vision, hence the word Parallax, a term that astrologists and physicists use to explain how we measure the distance from star to star. I’m interested in this dual perspective that exists within one person, the way they have multiple ways of seeing the same things. I think in the digital age, it’s important to consider how we look at the world, why we see things, where we’re seeing them and how they are being presented to us– often times we’re looking at flat screens. I felt like the name “The Blood Sport Oracles”, the spiritual inhabitants, “of Parallax City”, where vision is infinite, represents a place where the same truths can be seen differently at the same value.
Behind the scenes image provided by Sarah Lewiecki
Julia: Speaking of duality, much of your work plays with symmetry. I understand you paint with both hands. Has your interest in symmetry come out of your artistic method or is it a deeper symbol for you?
Sarah: I have a twin brother and I am ambidextrous, so I go way back with symmetry. I write and paint with both hands, and I like to use them at the same time. I discovered the whole thing organically as I was growing up. Although I didn’t start working this way in my artistic practice until recently, I suppose it never felt like a choice, it just started happening while I was sketching.
Sarah Lewiecki’s The Offering Room (2017)
Julia: Another central symbol in your body of work is altars, worship and ritualism. Are you attempting to engage with mainstream religion, or are you interested in spirituality in a different sense?
Sarah: I’m interested in mainstream religion, specifically the Abrahamic traditions–Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–religions that pull from similar creation stories and prophecies. From a philosophical perspective, I’m very curious about the history and role symbolism plays within each set of beliefs, like how people engage, or do not engage, with symbols through their worship practices and how the symbols themselves are different or similar to what they are meant to stand for.
I address religious symbolism my earlier work as well. For example, The Offering Room is temple-like structure, a large square box made of wood and covered in astroturf, where visitors can leave an offering if they want. The receptacle is obvious, but there are intentionally no instructions. It’s a method of facilitating worship, but it’s purposely ambiguous. There is a certain amount of freedom in being able to offer something to the unknown without a prompt or requirement, as there is no exchange, no transaction. There is no gift economy involved. I don’t demand anything from my audience, but they’re welcome to leave things. When I’m thinking about worship and religion, I’m really thinking about making sacrifices and what it means to do that. Do offerings involve symbols? What happens when a symbol is offered to another symbol? These are just some of the questions from my process in making the temple piece.
Still from The Bloodsport Oracle of Parallax City (2018)
Julia: Transitioning back into the present work, even though painting is your primary medium, you’ve recently been exploring video work, both in Sicko, and now for Parallax City. Has it been different for you working with actors rather than filming yourself, all while focusing on a new medium?
Sarah: My interest in video art has spiked mostly because of a recent inclination towards structural design, or what I call “shrine building.” It has much less to do with the actual technology of the medium, or machine. I find that video is the best way to capture the performances I organize at the site of each sculpture I build.
It has not been challenging working with actors because what I’m looking for isn’t really acting. I’m not a director, either. I look for people who look contented on screen and who can really engage with a shrine’s objects in a meaningful way. And so, while I’m shooting, it sort of becomes an interactive performance experience where I’m improvising with directions at the same time as I’m encouraging my actors to improvise based of those directions. Confusing, yes, but fun and always surprising in one way or another.
Still from The Bloodsport Oracle of Parallax City (2018)
Julia: What message do you want your audience to leave with? What will their experience be like?
Sarah: I want visitors in this space to experience curiosity and discovery. I want the paintings to surround them, and the videos to intrigue them. Ideally people will leave with questions about how symbols and truth function in their own life. I’ll mention also that the work in this show seems absurd at times. It can be funny. I bet a few people will laugh.
The Bloodsport Oracles of Parallax City debuts on April 30th. Details forthcoming at sarahlewiecki.com.
Writing by Julia Sawchak
Photos as marked