Sara Roth – Artist Profile

Sara Roth. Photo: Ivy Leon

Sara Roth is a multidisciplinary artist, whose work bridges illustration, installation and sculpture. She holds a BFA from NSCAD University and a Diploma in Fine Craft from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. She previously worked as part of the collective Moving Arms II (with Bernie MacCuish), whose performance and installation works replicate, celebrate and subvert Cape Breton tourist culture. Roth’s current project, Disturbed Sites, continues to tell stories about Cape Breton, past and present, taking a longer view of history through examinations of and interventions into the natural world. Sara Roth was born in British Columbia in 1980, and lives and works in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Sara Roth, Polygonum cuspidatum, graphite and watercolour on Stonehenge paper, 2015

I have a multidisciplinary practice that includes drawing, prints and sculptural installation. Common subject matter includes post-industrial sites, and the encroachment of the natural world into built environments. My current project, Disturbed Sites uses botanical illustration and site-based processes to examine intertwining natural, social, and colonial histories.

exploring a tension between industrial and post-card landscapes
Although I work in different media and processes, I often examine relationships between the natural and built environment, either through representation, installation or process. Aesthetically, I often reference the past; I have printed and installed historic wallpaper and created sculptures that appear as though they are part of the (built) landscape. In my current project, Disturbed Sites, I illustrate introduced or invasive (to Nova Scotia) plant species. Using traditional methods of botanical illustration to represent elements of the natural world refers to the colonial/settler histories that led to the plant species establishing in Nova Scotia. A key influence in my art practice is definitely the place I live and the lives of the people who live here. For the past 9 years I’ve been living in post-industrial Cape Breton, I find it a really rich resource. There is a tension between industrial and post-card landscapes, as well as nostalgia for a (somewhat) fictional past. There are also artists working here that I admire greatly. I’m constantly awed by their drive to make meaningful work. They are really what influences me to continue making work at all.

working in fits and starts
The main challenge I have in maintaining a practice is motivation. I work intermittently, in fits and starts. I find I am most energetic in the spring and summer, but gardening is also a big passion for me and has won the battle lately. Previously, I relied on deadlines and other commitments to pressure me into focussing energy and making decisions. Recently, I decided to take on less commitments with the goal of developing a regular studio practice. I hope being more disciplined in my practice will benefit my work overall. But, you’ll have to ask me in a few months because hibernation has definitely set in for this season.

VANS is my professional organization
I joined VANS specifically to participate in the PAINTS program. The program allowed me to work on a special project with a group of students I had gotten to know in my role as a gallery educator. It was a great experience and I’ve continued to work with that group in my current role as Event and Outreach Coordinator with the Lumière Art Festival. I continue to be a member because VANS is my professional organization, and acts as an advocate for me and all NS artists. Of course, Visual Arts News is the icing on the cake.

Sara Roth, Coin Operated Viewer, sculptural installation Art in the Open 2014, Charlottetown PE, variable dimensions, wood, paint, sheet metal, roofing shingles, electrical tubing, modelling clay, found video. Photo: Michael Wasnidge

Continuing Disturbed Sites
I am continuing to work on the project Disturbed Sites, identifying and illustrating introduced and invasive plant species in Nova Scotia. I showed some work from this project last fall at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery as part of the Marion McCain Exhibition of Contemporary Atlantic Art. Even though it’s been a couple of years (of working on and off) I feel like this project is just getting started. I get easily sidetracked with gardening and urban agriculture projects, which I like to think are all related. In the near future I’d like to improve my watercolour skills and learn a lot more about edible and medicinal plants in the service of the next phase of Disturbed Sites.

To see more of Sara Roth’s work please visit her website.

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