Sarah Rehmer

Q&A with Sarah Rehmer  & Gallery Director Laura Moriarty

LM: What is your work about?

SR: The core idea that I explore in much of my body of work has to do with memory, both as it applies to a person and their memory, and the idea of memories being an intangible object. I also look at the idea of memory loss - what happens to memories when they can no longer be remembered? Do they no longer exist, as if the event never happened? Sort of that idea of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? Well…if a person can no longer remember an event, did the event ever really occur?

LM: Could you speak a bit about how you use wax and books to communicate a sense of emptiness, and how it became such an important part of your practice?

SR: The concept of “anthems of empty” from my artist statement goes back to the theme of memory and memory loss. Anthems are usually defined as songs or hymns of celebration or praise- if you take the words away then they are just background music, no real meaning. When memory or memories are taken away from the individual, then what is left? The ability to make and retain memories is such a fundamental part of the human existence, that it is truly devastating when the ability to recall memories has failed the individual. What is left behind is emptiness, not only for the individual, but for everyone around that individual.

When I first began working with the antique book pages I was using matte acrylic mediums as the binder. I still like those early works, but that flat paper surface was lacking for me. I began working with encaustic medium in lieu of the acrylic medium and that was a real turning point for me. I still use a great deal of clear medium in my work to play into the optical depth and hazy look that can be achieved. With works like my continuing stories series I have used large areas of black encaustic paint that is highly polished- both the clear surface and the mirror like black surface have the ability to draw the viewer into these desolate areas of tone and color. The addition of the decaying antique book pages, especially the blank end pages, furthers the empty feeling of the work - the viewer can identify them as book pages, but they are lacking any information… working into the idea of where have the stories (memories) gone when the individual (like my 92 year old Grandmother) can not recall them due to afflictions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

LM: What do you imagine memories are made of?

SR: There are all sorts of sensory experiences that play into memories- anything from sounds, smells, tastes, etc. All of these have the incredible ability to conjure up memories of events and people from our past. Smoke is always the thing I have related memories to be closest too. When smoke has just been created it is strongest in smell, look, etc. It can permeate your hair, your clothes. As time passes it dissipates, the smell fades and any remnants can be washed away. Memories, to me, function in much the same manner. When the event (good or bad) has just occurred the memory is the strongest, but over time it fades, but there may still be lingering traces, until one day it has all been washed away.

LM: What is on the horizon for your work?

SR: The most immediate event happening is that I will be showing 2 pieces during the show “The Wax Book: altered, Repurposed, Remade” at Truro Center for the Arts during The 6th International Encaustic Conference at the end of May. From there, it is all about trying to find adequate amounts of time to get into the studio and work in between classes and workshops! I am continuing to explore working with the antique book pages in more sculptural applications and starting to consider the scale of the work- and working larger with these paper based sculptures that tend to be very delicate and somewhat fragile, so I have to juggle both making the work and knowing that it will be stable to transport and show.