Post 1612 with Sara Peak Convery

Project 1612: Can you give us a brief overview of your work.

Sara: I am a painter, sometimes photographer and filmmaker. I did not paint really between the time I finished my BFA in painting (1989) and 2006, after I had to move all my artwork from college out of my mother's attic. In 2008, I decided to return to working on a project about my parents' marriage that I had started in the early 1990s. My father passed away in 2005, and I think that his being out of the picture allowed me the mental space to pursue a number of ideas that had been in the back of my mind for a long time.

Project 1612: What brought you to Project 1612, why did you decide to apply? 

Sara: I am always scouring the Chicago Artist Resource website calls for work. I was intrigued with the idea of creating a temporary installation using paint, as I had never worked that large. I decided to apply as I was curious about how this project (1612 art space) would work. 

Project 1612: Once you were accepted, how did you initially plan to utilize the space?

Sara: Initially I made a number of scale drawings on the computer so I could try to really visualize the space. In early conversations with you, I was thinking in terms of a way to include screening my documentary but I realized that would not work logistically because of the lighting situation. I also was thinking in terms of portability and re-use. I considered the idea of priming tarps to hang and paint on, but that seemed like more work than benefit ultimately. I decided to bring some large self portrait woodcut prints that I had done in 1988 and had started playing with (cutting, collaging) in 2012. They had the benefit of scale and portability. Media was a big issue as I usually work in oil, which was not feasible for the space. I consulted with a friend who had done some mural size interior paintings and he suggested house paint. So, I put out a call on Facebook to friends and acquaintances who might have old house paint that they did not want. I had a terrific response and ended up with over 50 colors and plenty of shades of white. I spent a significant amount of time organizing the paint and transferring it to translucent containers with screw top lids for easier access. In addition to the woodcut prints, I decided to bring a few of my paintings to hang and create larger contexts for. Ultimately, I did not have a sketched out plan, but brought enough resonant pieces with me to create a space story.

Project 1612: During your time at 1612 you really took advantage of the wall space. Have you made work like this before or was this the first time? 

Sara: For my BFA, I created a photo based installation called "Being At Home", which incorporated rotating slide projections of my documentation of family over the previous 4 months. It also included a mass of photo-collages and xeroxed copies of old photos as well as furniture. I painted the walls colors that I associated with our home: bright yellow for the kitchen and green for the hallways. It was, in words of my aunt Katherine "a big mess of stuff”… Through my MFA program I worked with installation incorporating family narratives (history being an objective term) and lots of (emotionally laden but undigested) 'stuff'. 

For my MFA, I created another set of rooms delineated by, similar to "Being at Home”, wall color, though the artwork itself was primarily written and visually austere.

So, in many ways, this kind of installation was new - creating some work on the wall itself rather than bringing a lot of stuff in to a context.

Project 1612: Have you continued working this way after 1612? And in what ways has this experience influenced your work? 

Sara: I think that coming to 1612 gave me the confidence to try thinking and working on a larger scale again. I am contemplating doing more large scale prints and have started working on large scale (6' x 6') canvases and recently primed a 12' x 15' tarp to experiment with the idea of a large scale collaboration with a friend and fellow painter. Public Art does not seem like as scary a concept as it did to me previously.