Interview with Sarah Cusey 08/26/2020
Sarah Cusey is a multimedia process artist and a space holder for collaborative experimentation and discovery. She is enamored with organic lines and the shapes that emerge when a line gains weight, folds over on itself or intersects with another mark. Sarah’s work seeks to notice, question, and reimagine the space that we are all invited to take up, as individuals and as a collective. Her current preferred tools for exploration are a needle and thread, paper and knife and illustration pens. As a new mother, Sarah finds herself in relentless pursuit of a more integrated, sustainable practice, where creating, self care, earth care, intentional relationships, learning and activism are interdependent.
What projects are you currently working on? I’m currently working on two projects. The first is freeform embroidery on a baby’s receiving blanket. The blanket is from my 10-month-old daughter and, with her schedule being what it is, I have about 20 minutes at a time to sew small vignettes that I later work to connect in some sort of meaningful and cohesive way. The second project I’m working on is a revisiting of a series I completed last year entitled Mantra. The series is made up of botanical sculptures and cross-stitched affirmations, inspired by my experiences with gender-based trauma and healing. I am now adding to them, exploring how my recovery work has expanded my capacity for anti-racist accompliceship.
How has this pandemic affected or shifted your practice/changed your projects? I find myself working in a very small frame, forcing myself to start as soon as I enter the studio by making a stitch or mark or cut. Then I make another and slowly build momentum. I set a timer and allow myself to finish my current “thought” before setting aside the work. The next time I enter the studio, I move the frame and repeat the process. My current process reflects the repetition I experience in the pandemic and the need to make choices for myself and my family without being able to see many steps ahead. I am slowly building a narrative, finding connections and making meaning over time.
What has your journey been like as an artist or creative person? I have wanted to be an artist ever since I was in elementary school, but I was conditioned to believe making a living would be impossible. Since I enjoyed teaching and working with youth, as well, I got my undergrad in elementary education. After a few years working for San Diego Unified, I knew I needed to make a change and discovered the teaching artist field. I identify equally as an artist and educator, and my work in one context is constantly informing the other. The pandemic and motherhood have resulted in some unexpected twists and turns in my career path, which I am still attempting to make sense of. This will be the first time in 20 years that I am not working in a classroom setting during the school year, and I have experienced that change as a poignant loss. I have also experienced a deeply satisfying freedom as I open myself up to new opportunities. I am learning how to speak with more confidence and clarity about my practice, narrowing my focus, broadening my experimentation, and enjoying holding space for adult groups.
Do you have any tips for up-and-coming, or rising artists/creatives? This tip is not my original idea, but I have heard it many times and found it to be profoundly true. If you want to be successful as an artist, the single best thing you can do is be yourself. Spend time playing and experimenting, thinking and writing, creating alone and in community. Identify the work that only you can make and make it. Find opportunities to talk about your work with others in the art world. This part is really intimidating for me, but I force myself to do it. The more focused your work is and the more articulate you are about it, the more you will find connections to people and opportunities you need to grow and thrive. Over time, you will find that you and your definition of success draw closer and closer to each other until they meet.
Learn more about Sarah: