Interview With Sarah Boyts Yoder

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
My name is Sarah Boyts Yoder, I’m a mixed media painter living and working in Charlottesville, VA.  I received an MFA in painting from JMU in 2006.  I make large and colorful abstract paintings on canvas and mixed media collages and installations on paper.

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
As a teenager and young undergrad I was in love with the Abstract Expressionists, the idea that paint could convey emotion sunk in and made sense to me.  And it’s very beautiful.  Later, after having children, that type of non-objective painting didn’t feel satisfying anymore.  I felt it lacking in some way – there wasn’t a kind of grounding perspective that engaged in the world with significance for me.  I realized it had to do with humor and at some point I began taking a closer look at the illustrations in the kids’ books we were reading and looking at all the time.  So the cartoons and pictures, the lettering all over everything, even the colors I was seeing throughout my days.  So often they made me chuckle and I realized that abstraction has a lot to do with cleverness and vulnerability and humor. 
So my inspiration comes from beautiful, flowy drippy paint itself, and what I know it can do emotionally.  On the other hand it comes from the humorous and silly, hyper-colorful world of cartoons and illustrations found in children’s books and shows.

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
I’d guess a lot of artists have this incredible doubt that kind of follows you around.  I certainly do.  No matter how many paintings, it doesn’t matter  – you can just nail it, and the second you finish you have this paralyzing doubt that you’ll ever be able to ever finish another work again.   I’ve said this other times, but for me the trick has been to just start over again in the same, old, tired place.  Except it’s never old and tired.  It helps me recognize my hand in every work, and I’ve found it usually always leads to more, new ideas.  I repeat shapes and forms over and over.  It gives me a place to start when I’m scared and paralyzed and doubtful.  Or even just tired and lazy.

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?  
Well, recurrence for one, repetition.  I repeat this bun form all the time, the shape of the back of a woman’s head.  Lots of hair-dos actually, and stripes. There are these little feet and little shoes, hats, clouds, and windows, they float over and over again like playful toys in space.  I love the juxtaposition of the bloopy cartoony forms that teeter on the edge of recognition and float against a beautiful painterly background space.
Also, I almost always choose my colors solely on what catches my eye in the bottle or tube or can at the store. I rarely mix colors to get specific effects.  The palette ends up being slightly wild or off kilter, but usually (hopefully) in a way that adds to a general sense of humor and lightness in the work.

    Pipe, Foot, and Ladle   Mixed media on paper 16" x 14"

Pipe, Foot, and Ladle
Mixed media on paper
16" x 14"

    Blue Shield W/ Blue   Mixed media on paper and canvas   22" x 27"

Blue Shield W/ Blue
Mixed media on paper and canvas

22" x 27"

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
Elizabeth Murray, Amy Sillman, Louise Bourgeois, Arturo Herrera. Margaret Kilgallen, Georgia O’Keefe, Rose Wylie, Richard Tuttle…

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given? 
“Do not hurry, do not rest.”  -Goethe

Thanks so much, Sarah!  Be sure to check out details of Sarah's work in our current exhibition, Just Plane Rottenand more of her work here.