Through Flesh and Stone : An Interview with Sara Schneckloth By Mary Catherine Ballou


Through Flesh and Stone, the most recent exhibit by artist Sara Schneckloth, opened at 701 Center for Contemporary Art on Friday, June 10.  Inspired by Schneckloth’s visits to the canyons of New Mexico, Through Flesh and Stone features both drawings and an interactive installation, translating Schneckloth’s topographical studies into abstractly kinetic pieces that invite visitors to connect with the artwork on a multidimensional level.  Through Flesh and Stone animates Schneckloth’s interpretive drawings, challenging viewers to analyze and manipulate the fluid pieces inspired by Southwestern terrains.  As a professor of Studio Art at the University of South Carolina and an artist whose work has been featured internationally and nationally, Schneckloth kindly agreed to answer some questions regarding her vision and artwork in Through Flesh and Stone.


Jasper: What inspired you to create Through Flesh and Stone?

Schneckloth : I've made three long visits to New Mexico starting in Fall of 2015, each for several weeks.  During these trips, I have been drawing from the landscape, both literally and abstractly.  At the heart of my interest and excitement are the slot canyons throughout [the] northern part of the state.


So many elements of the landscape there excite me, endlessly - the color, the light, the surreal geology, the feeling of being in the midst of deep time that is still slowly unfolding.  It feels like all the senses are activated and enhanced while I'm there, not just vision, but touch, sound - my whole body is brought into how I take in the environment, and I feel actively changed by encounters with the land and the sky.


Through Flesh and Stone includes drawings I made in New Mexico and a new set of drawings from Massachusetts.  All the drawings are an exploration of the intersections of biology and geology, working through different interpretations and media.  In the interactive piece, I'm experimenting with creating the sensation of going through a Southwestern slot canyon, a tight and constricted space that is alive with color and texture.


Jasper: Please explain the interactive portion.

Schneckloth : The interactive piece is a 20-foot long, 12-foot high constricted tunnel made of spandex fabric. The drawings are put in motion and projected on to the large flexible screens that move with your touch as you traverse the tight space.  In addition to the tunnel piece, there will be over twenty drawings displayed.


Jasper: How do you think people will react to this exhibit?

Schneckloth : With the interactive canyon piece, my hope is for people to share in the sense of mystery that I experience in these spaces; whether it's fear, or wonder, or being put into a different state of awareness about time and the body.  The canyons, for me, are places to feel incredibly young, connected to processes that have endured for ages, beyond simple understanding.


Jasper: What mediums are featured in your pieces?

Schneckloth : The drawings combine ink, watercolor, colored pencil, graphite and wax on synthetic paper.  I combine these regularly to get surfaces and effects that don't immediately give themselves up to easy interpretation, but are rather layered and combined to create new effects.  For the video, I scanned and animated all the drawings, so as to create movement and flow.


Jasper: Do you have a favorite piece?

Schneckloth : I don't have a favorite as such, but I am excited about showing a series of ten new drawings that came from a residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art last month.  These are another take on the intersection of biology and geology, but coming from a different geographical perspective, looking at the industrial Northeast in contrast to the desert environment of the Southwest.  It's interesting to me to see the differences in palette and feel between the two sets of drawings.