Sara Antoinette Martin is living the dream life of many an aspiring artist/illustrator. An internship with Tristan Eaton at Thunderdog Studios lead to a job at Kidrobot as a product photographer, which in turn lead to her current position as an artists assistant to Tara McPhearson. Is it her charmed life or barrels of talent? Perhaps a combination of both. Either that or Sara really knows what she wants and how to get it. Her fascination with paranormal creatures has led to art and vinyl toys being made. You can check out her work, or make some purchases via her site, http://www.sara-land.net
Have you ever seen a live freakshow where there was a dwarf in a box and she’s looking right back at you? Itâ€™s that sort of back and forth of what is beautiful and what is normal that I like to play with
Format: What is your background as an artist?
Sara: I grew up on boats and the waters off Long Island’s south shore so the water is always a big inspiration. I was always a crafty child. My birthday parties always had a theme like beading or origami or a trip to a plaster fun house. I was always making something. Then I got into ska, picked up a Cometbus and discovered the DIY movement.
My high school didn’t have much of an art program so I didn’t know I could make a living as an artist until I started going to the Pratt Institute. When I figured out I could draw better then the average person, I changed my major from computer graphics to illustration and graduated in 2005.
After school, I interned with Tristan Eaton at Thunderdog Studios and eventually fell into a job at Kidrobot and became their photographer. While at Kidrobot I continued to do a little illustration work, but I mostly did a lot of group exhibitions. I left Kidrobot in July right before my Chupacabra came out to pursue my illustration and fine art career. I wasn’t really going anywhere at Kidrobot and as the company grew bigger and bigger, I just felt left behind. I didn’t really want to be a photographer anyway.
Now I’m artist assisting for Tara McPherson, which kind of pays the bills, and looking for commercial work. My dream would be able to support myself with illustration and have the time to do more fine art.
Format: What is involved in your residency at the Gowanus Studio Space involve?
Sara: The Gowanus Studio Space is a non-profit communal workspace backed by the New York Foundation for the Arts. Â There are different tiers of membership and they provide private studio spaces, workbenches, lockers, a huge work room, a gallery, a wood shop, a print lab, community and resources! Â They just got a new grant to run workshops (which I may be involved in) and they host a whole array of events. Â I used to have a private studio, but after I left Kidrobot it didn’t make sense to go all the way to Gowanus from Greenpoint when I could just roll out of bed and work from my apartment. Â Having that space definitely made me more productive, but it got a little cumbersome to get down there. Â It would take me a half hour to get there or 30-50 min to get there on the train and because it was the G train, it didn’t always run late at night. Â I worked there through the night a lot, and it can get creepy when itâ€™s just you and some feral cats in an old sweater factory. Â I thought about moving to Gowanus, but It wasn’t really feasible, so I downsized to a locker and still go there to use the facility and work on projects. Â Itâ€™s run by some great people and I like being a part of it. Â Itâ€™s the type of place where you can say, â€œHey, how can I build this?â€ and someone will show you, no problem.
Format: Your Debatable Beasts series features cryptids (creatures who’s existence is documented but still highly debatable) like the Loch Ness Monster, or the Abominable Snowman.
Have you ever seen one of your creatures? Do you believe they might exist?
Sara: I wish! I definitely believe they exist in some form. Â Itâ€™s a big creepy world out there.
Format: Most of us are familiar with the story of the Loch Ness Monster, and The Abominable Snow Man, but what is the story of the Chupacabra?
Sara: The Chupacabra, or Goat sucker originated in Puerto Rico, but its been sighted all over Mexico, Central America and even Texas and Florida. Â It comes in the night and sucks the blood of goats with its two giant fangs, leaving a deflated corpse with just two puncture holes in its neck, like a spider bite. Â A little while ago, they thought they found a Chupacabra body, but it turned out to be a hairless old coyote…My Chupacabra is actually a really friendly guy who loves to dance, but he’s really embarrassed of his vampiric ways so he avoids human contact in order to escape persecution. Â After feeding on a goat, he uses his chupacabra moonlight magic to bring its bones to life and they have a dance party among the cacti.
Format: What do you hope your fans, or critics, take away from your work?
Sara: My goal is to make interesting, but unsettling images. Â I want the ladies in my paintings to exude a sort of assertive sexuality, but are accosting at the same time. Â There’s a little bit of loss and loneliness thrown in too; a sense of detachment. They know who they are and they could care less what you think, but they are there to look at anyway. Have you ever seen a live freakshow where there was a dwarf in a box and she’s looking right back at you? Itâ€™s that sort of back and forth of what is beautiful and what is normal that I like to play with. I also like to play with symbols, turn them upside down and make them into something different. Sometimes it renders them meaningless.Â I want to create my own visual language. Then there are things that I think are just fun to draw like flowers and gills. Sometimes I just really like rendering piles of guts.
Format: Do you have a twin sister? Â What is the message you meant to convey with your Vomit Twins print?
Sara: No I don’t have a twin, but I have two younger sisters. Â The Vomit Twins is a sort of exercise in symmetry and mish-mosh of things that I like to draw. Maybe itâ€™s a message of rebirth, or maybe its just pretty vomit. I think a lot of people don’t realize (unless they see my paintings in person) that my work is actually collage. I’ll start with a drawing, then break it up and paint the elements separately on paper. I’ll add embellishments when I collage it back together. My work is very much about the process of essentially breaking down the composition and building it back up again.
Format: Plush Vs. Plastic. What’s your poison?
Sara: Both! I’m a sucker for cute things and nice packaging.
Format: You did some custom work recently for the Chumby, a new portable personal media device. Â Do you feel that technology is getting a bit too invasive in our day to day life, or is it futile to resist?
Sara: Technology in the name of security can be very scary and invasive. Â But something like a Chumby is a streaming information machine and technology like that I don’t find invasive. Â If they found a way to put advertisements on it, then it would be a different story, but I think information is good and the internet is an incredible tool for connecting to people.
Format: How did you start designing for KidRobot? Was it a personal goal, or something you were pleasantly surprised to be doing?
Sara: It’s something I fell into. While I was working at Kidrobot, there was another company I was working with to make my toys, because at the time it didn’t really fit KidRobotâ€™s brand. That fell through and they were expanding rapidly so they decided to put out the Chupacabra.
Format: Who are some artists that you look up to?
Sara: Working with Tara McPherson has been really inspirational. Â She has really found her niche with the posters and the paintings she is making now are really beautiful. The draftsmanship of James Jean. Â I get so enamored by people who can just draw beautifully. I love Winsor McCay and the Little Nemo comics. Pretty much anyone who is successful doing their art.
Format: What is coming up in Sara Land for 2009?
Sara: Sara-land is about to be bulldozed and be replaced with saraantoinette.com. I’m launching a new website real soon with the blog and store all in one place.
I’m looking to do some more gallery fine art work. Â I have some work in two big group shows in LA right now. ‘Movers and Shakers’ at the POV gallery and ‘Everything but the Kitschen Sync’ at La Luz de Jesus. Other then that I’m just trying to make it through this recession.Â Its really hard to find paying jobs right now and everyone is being very conservative with creative projects.