By Elizabeth Donohue
Published by Blush
There are very few artists at the moment that are able to capture the various emotions and conflicting ideals of the world today. British artist Sarah Maple is one of those artists. I first came across her work when I opened up the November 2018 copy of Harper’s Bazaar Art, where she was able to design and be on the cover of the limited edition issue. She is photographed against an electric blue background, with bright red lipstick and white sign that brazenly reads, “The Most Tremendous Magazine Cover Ever! One of The Best! Thank You Bazaar, Very Cool!”
Sarah Maple is not planning on slowing down anytime soon- her first United States solo exhibition, “Thoughts and Prayers”, curated by gallery director Indira Cesarine recently just finished its showing at The Untitled Space. “Thoughts and Prayers” deals with her own experience as a female with parents of mixed cultural backgrounds, femininity, and the dangers of inaction in today’s social and political climate.
I am honored to have been able to interview her at such an early, and yet such a successful time in her career. Here’s what we talked about, below:
You recently just finished showing your solo exhibit, “Thoughts and Prayers” at the Untitled Space in New York City. What was that experience like for you?
It was really great, it was just amazing being in the city! I’ve wanted to put on a solo show in New York for a long time so it was super exciting. It was really nice to meet some New Yorkers who follow my work too.
You were chosen to design the cover of Harper’s Bazaar 2018 November issue. What was that experience like?
I felt pretty daunted to start with as I haven’t done anything like that before - especially as my sense of humour sometimes causes me problems! But it was great fun and I would love to do something like that again.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you’ve received quite a lot of negative death threats, a brick thrown through a gallery window. Does this ever discourage you from making and sharing work with the world? Do you find it reaffirming or terrifying that your work has been met with such intense mixed emotions?
I think if everyone liked what you did all the time something would be wrong! My work is very much call and response, part of the work is how people are reacting to it and that definitely influences the next work I make. I used to think that I could put something out there and everyone would get EXACTLY what I meant, but of course that is impossible – and that’s a good thing. Sometimes there are negative responses but sometimes people bring something completely new to it, which is really interesting.
Would you say that you feel a certain responsibility as an artist to address the hard things that people sometimes would rather ignore?
Definitely. For me that’s part of being an artist, you can say the difficult things, you can get away with it. I think that’s what’s great about what we do. Even on an emotional level, sometimes you can say something through art that you can’t say face to face to a person. It’s a way to let it all out!
You push boundaries and question traditional Muslim values and dress- particularly, the hijab. How do you see the future of Muslim women’s fashion, as well as the symbol of the hijab evolving over time?
On social media and youtube there are some amazing beauty bloggers and stylists that are really doing interesting things. I follow a few on instagram that are not so ‘traditional’ and showing some different ideas, so it will be great to see how this grows and if more start popping up.
You have quite a way with words, and a sharp wit. Do you write often? Have you ever kept a journal?
Haha I actually kept a journal for a really long time, it’s only the past few years when I stopped. It is really entertaining reading the old ones – obviously the teenage ones are ridiculous but really make me laugh. I felt this year I should start again but literally have done nothing! You have reminded me I need to start again!
You work with many different mediums- painting, sculpture, photography, videography, collage, etc. In the future, is there anything else that you are eager to explore creatively?
I would really love to do live performance! Like some sort of comedy/art collaboration with another artist…I do get stage fright so that would be really pushing the boundaries for me!
And, lastly, what advice would you give to young creatives trying find their voices and break into the industry?
Do not spend ages staring at other artists on social media! Instagram is great for inspiration but it’s really easy to get caught up looking at other people and not concentrating on what you have that makes you unique. Stick to your own style and believe in that. I’ve seen many artists that are all copying each other and you will never find your unique voice that way.