The eclectic artist brings her work to Chelsea for a monthlong exhibit.
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A self-taught painter who splits her time between Manhattan and Woodstock, Sara Conca is the kind of artist whose work is at once familiar and wholly original. The colors and forms in her large-scale abstract paintings represent a kind of stream of consciousness that defines her process. Now through July 17, get a taste of her work at Able Fine Art Gallery in Chelsea, which is showing pieces mostly from her “Plexi Series,” paintings on Plexiglas that change with different light conditions.
We caught up with Conca before the opening. “I’m infatuated with my work,” she says. “I kind of get lost in my daydream land, and I like it that way.”
Tell me about your “Plexi Series.”
With most paintings, the details you do last are the ones you see first. It’s just the opposite with this series. With these, I paint backwards, so the first things I put down are in the front. You can’t see what you are doing to visually judge it; you really just have to trust it.
What is your process like?
Sometimes I’ll have a dream at night and jump up at 4 or 5 a.m. and start painting or drafting up an idea, but otherwise I don’t do much planning. I dance with it. I put on the first layer, and then I move it around and flip it upside down, creating something that looks organic. And I keep going until I feel that it has a name—that’s how you know when you’re finished with an abstract piece.
How did you get started?
I would come back after a bad day at work and start painting like crazy to let off steam. I started out by painting figures; I really loved it, but it was so contrived and controlled that I finally learned to just let go and do abstract. Now it’s been 10 or 15 years, and I can’t do anything else.
You refer to many of your paintings as “mixed media.” What types of materials do you use?
I paint with oils, but I like textures, so I incorporate pieces of metal—mostly brass, because I love the way it oxidizes when I put a wash over it. In my gold series, I use an 18-karat gold spray paint, which I found at an auto shop, on top of a molding paste, which is a lot like cement. I love how the gold changes with the light; it makes the painting look different during the day than it does at night.
Do you have a piece that you are most connected to?
One called Ocean Lungs. It is the only painting I actually cried over selling. A lot of the other ones feel like they aren’t mine anyway. I like to make sure each piece goes to the person who deserves it.
What's next for you?
I will be showing my "Gold Series," which features the gold spray paint I mentioned, followed by more of my "Plexi Series" at Evolve Design Gallery in Woodstock until the first week of August.