Artist Sarah Yuster presents a selection of dramatically expressive oil paintings. More of her work may be seen on her website.
When I was thirteen, my favorite painting teacher said, “Little Yuster, you don’t know how lucky you are; you already know what you want to do with your life. Some people never figure it out …”
I didn’t understand this as an adolescent, but I do now. It’s been challenging, but my decision to be an artist has felt purposeful and found an audience.
As a small child with a busy head, being alone in the expansive woods and marshes of Staten Island observing nature gave shape and reason to the world. I ordained myself a watcher and interpreter. Writing and drawing were natural inclinations.
At twelve, I entered New York City’s High School of Art and Design, a two-hour commute into Manhattan. I began painting, learning about technique, materials and art history. Stellar instructors—Irwin Greenberg and Max Ginsburg—introduced many other artists through museum visits and art books. Often cutting classes after studio periods, I spent errant hours wandering through the Frick Collection and The Metropolitan Museum. Velazquez, Sargent, Courbet, Rembrandt, Vuillard, Turner, Whistler and Monet remain influential.
Continuing my education at The School of Visual Arts was a logical step. I maintained and cultivated interests in science, literature, music, dance and distance running, eventually bringing them to canvas through commissions and grant projects. Some of the portraits are in major collections—Nobel Laureate author Saul Bellow’s was purchased for The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The great thinker, ecologist/biologist E.O. Wilson’s portrait hung at Harvard for years, later given to his alma mater, the University of Alabama, and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s is owned by the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.
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Greener and more affordable than the rest of New York City, Staten Island has remained my home. Married to a professional musician, we’ve been able to make our living solely through art. We raise kids in a diverse, semi-urban community with open spaces which I’ve been painting for decades.
Universality of the local is a primary theme. People often report feeling their own unspoken aesthetics spurred, validated and acknowledged. Response and clientele far beyond the borough affirm a visceral connection. My major retrospective, Native Soil, opened at The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art in 2018. An art book with the same name and 125 images was published and continues to sell.
Recent works explore the ephemera of passing through familiar routes of the metropolitan area in an almost dreamlike state of awareness.
William Faulkner wrote, “I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about, and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.”
Much of my own work is a celebration and homage of the concept of home, belonging and the threads that weave our collective experience.
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