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Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Sitkin
Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Sitkin
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LA Artist Sarah Sitkin Brings Special Effects To The Art World

Picture of Marnie Sehayek
Updated: 10 October 2016
Los Angeles artist Sarah Sitkin is a creep genius. This month, Superchief Gallery presents the artist in a solo sculptural exhibition, Trifling Matter, and it is not for the faint of heart. Sitkin’s grotesque flesh sculptures are as hyper-realistic as they are otherworldly, made from silicone, wax, plaster, and urethane molds of human features. The exhibition features all new work, including fully functional masks and highly controlled piles of chaos, dramatically lit as is typical of her trademark photographs.

During a studio visit, the artist explains her fascination with classic special effects, the science of artistic experimentation, and how photography brings her sculptural work to life.

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Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Sitkin

On art as communication:

Art has always been the way that I connect with other people. I want to connect with other people, but I’m kind of socially inept. I don’t find value in hanging out with someone and just talking over food or something. That’s unappealing to me. But I still crave connection. I started doing portraiture as an accessible way to connect with people. When I make artwork, that’s when I feel I’m able to connect with people the most. We can have a mutual experience and find commonality and understanding.

On the power of photography:

When the lighting is right, and the conditions are right, and the color is right, a dirty piece of rubber becomes something magical and meaningful. I hope people are still able to see that magic in this sculptural show without the context of a super controlled scenario. I’m comfortable inhabiting the ambiguous gray area between the mediums of photography and sculpture. I’m liberated by that. Most of all, what I do is portraiture.

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Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Sitkin

On horror movies:

I always hated horror movies as a kid. They would scare the shit out of me – I just couldn’t do it. But I loved the more artful uses of special effects, like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain or the costumes in Interview with the Vampire. Aliens was an artful use of special effects. Anyone’s interpretation of aliens since that film has been so Gieger-esque. That man influenced the cultural subconscious.

On classic special effects:

I love real special effects in movies, especially when you can kind of see through the guise of it. It becomes two things at once: you can see it at face value – a zombie head getting chopped off and rolling across the floor – and then you play it back and see how they made that.

I like to visualize the greater scene… I can imagine the camera panning back and turning around and looking at the whole crew and the SFX dudes freaking out on the sidelines, pumping syringes of blood. I think about the process and the ingenuity it took for them to make it happen. There’s a whole other story in my brain that I appreciate a lot.

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Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Sitkin

On the science of artistic process:

It’s just experimentation, knowing how the materials behave and playing with it. Painters are also chemists. You get to know how to thin your materials, what to mix in your materials, what the ideal drying conditions are, and you manipulate those things in order to achieve the exact result you’re looking for. Painters would totally understand what I do with silicone.

On artistic catharsis:

I remember an instance where I took a mold of my boyfriend at the time, and it was the best mold I had ever taken. It was experimental, and I didn’t use a bald cap, so I captured every detail of his hair, scalp, and ears. The cast was flawless, and I was so proud of it. We got into a fight a day after I took this mold, and he took a hammer to it and smashed the face on it. I was so pissed that I broke up with him.

After that, I felt like I could not let this boy destroy me. So, I took the mutilated bust and fixed it. I painted it and made it into something beautiful again. Then, I lit it on fire for a photograph. I had to be the one to destroy it. It is catharsis to be able to do the damage.

Catch the Trifling Matter closing party at Superchief Gallery this Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 6 pm.

Superchief Gallery, 739 Kohler St, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 718 576 4193