Published on September 3, 2019. Interview by 2019 Summer Intern, Caroline Carr Grant. Sahara Clemons is a painter, designer, Charlottesville SOUP winner, and recent Charlottesville High School graduate. She is our second featured 2019 artist in our fourth 7x7x7 Series, which asks 7 questions to 7 Charlottesville artists and published once a week for 7 weeks.
If you had a free afternoon in Charlottesville what would you do or where would you go?
I would go to the IX Art Park and then going to the downtown mall. I love going to the farmers market! The things that are best about Charlottesville are the community events that we have around town, so I would love to go to one of those.
Describe your artistic work in 7 words.
Bright works exploring ideals of boldness, personality, and identity.
Who or what inspires your current work?
Travel has always inspired my work. Artists that inspire me would be Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley. Playing with culture and exploring different cultures and showing how this kind of has an impact on me is really important to my process. Making observations of culture and thinking about ideals that are fluid throughout cultures.
Consider one piece you’re working on right now. Give us a snippet of your routine—from start to finish, what goes into making it?
With my work I have a set system now of what I do. First I brainstorm things and write a lot of them down. Now I really love making digital sketches of my work first. They start out pretty loose. I’ve also had to do a lot of research with the work I am doing now since I am doing things with more historical context to them. Then it moves onto the actual painting of the piece. Now I have been working with wood—it’s fun but heavy! I’ve also been working with mainly acrylic but am planning on working with oil soon.
What have you learned about yourself as a person through the experience of making art?
I have learned that I have a lot to learn! Since my work is about identity and exploring that I put a lot of emotion into the work but also a lot of questions that I have for myself about my identity into my work. Art in general is such a beautiful process because you are putting so much of yourself out there, but in discrete ways—and this is so magical. You’re putting out so much of what you feel in your work. I’m more aware of my environment and racial tensions in my environment and my work has made me more self aware as a person.
What would you like to see happen in Charlottesville to better support artists in our community?
I feel like we do a lot in Charlottesville but I think that we should be working to encourage younger artists in the community. There should be more mentorship opportunities for young people. There should also be more opportunities for people to showcase work across Charlottesville in public spaces.
What is currently on your studio/work desk?
I always have my IPad and paints everywhere. Always something to snack on too!
The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of NCAI.
Sahara Clemons is an emerging artist who embraces the fluidity and flexibility of media. Identity, social issues, and culture are common themes in her work. She is currently exploring intersectionality and experimenting with abstraction, particularly focused on societal labeling and its impact on self-determination. Sahara is a recent Charlottesville High School graduate and is now pursuing a degree from Rhode Island School of Design. Her works have been shown at Second Street Gallery, McGuffey Art Center as a member of the Incubator Studio, and in the Signs of Change and Face to Face exhibitions at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative. Sahara is a Charlottesville SOUP grantee. Follow her on Instagram: @sgcorignials.