Joan Mitchell Center AIR Program

Previous | Next

Sarah McEneaney

Philadelphia, PA
2000 Painters & Sculptors Grant Recipient

Artist's Statement

My paintings are autobiographical narratives. They retell life experiences both physical and emotional, looking out from within and back inside from my own particular place in the world. I work from drawings, memory, imagination and photographs. Though very direct, even factual, the paintings read less as memoir and more like creative non-fiction. The scenes, moments and details are as carefully selected and edited as the formal decisions of color, line and perspective. 

Drawing from daily life my solitary studio practice and busy urban life have become interwoven in my paintings. From the mundane to the horrific, I have documented everyday activities in intimate detail; reading, taking a nap or bath, as well as the experience and survival of a life threatening illness and violent crime. Over a 30 year practice themes have emerged in my work: life stories, travel, community activism, home and studio. I paint about my life but these are not solely my stories. My aim is to be straightforward and honest in both subject matter and the creative process; to make the personal universal.

My primary medium is egg tempera on traditionally gessoed wood panels. It is a painstaking but enjoyable process. First the egg yolk is separated and a drop of vinegar is added as a preservative. Then powdered pigments are mixed with water, forming a paste that is added to the egg yolk. The final image is made up of many layers of translucent and opaque paint applied both loosely with big soft brushes and minutely with the tiny strokes more commonly associated with the practice of tempera painting.

  • Trestletown, 13th and Noble, 2012, acrylic on linen, 48 x 36 inches.

  • Trestletown, 10th and Hamilton, 10th floor, 2012, acrylic on linen, 36 x 48 inches.

  • Philadelphia Winter, 2011, egg tempera on wood, 18 x 18 inches.

  • Twilight, 2012, egg tempera on wood, 20 1/2 x 36 inches (diptych).

All works are copyright of the artist or artist’s estate.