Sage Gould will graduate from the University of New Hampshire in May of 2020 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with University Honors, as well as Minors in both Women’s and Gender Studies and Social Justice Leadership. Her concentration within the Department of Art and Art History is painting, her focus is portraiture, and her mediums of choice are oil, watercolor and acrylic paint, as well as digital drawing. In addition to her participation in the Honors Program, Sage had the formative opportunities to be a Resident Assistant in Scott Hall, a Museum Fellow at the UNH Museum of Art, and a member of the Hamel Scholars Program. She has also enjoyed the chance to exhibit her work at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH, and at the New Hampshire Art Association’s College Invitational Exhibition 2020. Sage’s involvement in student life and various academic programs at UNH has allowed her to connect with more of the diverse student body that she exists within. She considers this an important aspect of expanding her perspective in order to fully express the topics she wants to convey in her art. Her relationship with the identities she personally holds and the widely varied identities, experiences and attitudes of her generation—particularly that of young women and LGBTQ+ folks—are central to the content and concepts Sage explores in her portraits. The social and political climate of today is a point of critical examination and reflection in Sage’s studio practice, and her desire for representation motivates the imagery she creates.
Sage grew up primarily in Keene, New Hampshire with her mom, while weekends were spent in northern Vermont visiting her younger siblings and her dad’s side of the family. Sage has a love for the mountains as well as an affinity for the seacoast, so New England will always remain an anchor in her life, but she does not yet know where exactly the next few years will take her. After completing her studies at UNH, she plans to take a year off to work and possibly travel, and then apply to Master of Fine Arts programs to further her studies with the hopes of going on to have a career teaching art in higher education. Nevertheless, Sage will continue to pursue art unabashedly and without reservation because she has found that the world of art is a constant in her life that she simply will not let go.
I am developing an assembly of expressive portraits of young women who relate to my own identities, experiences and understanding of the complexities contained in the myriad cultures of American society around me, as well as what I witness in that of my friends and peers. Through ample experimentation with multiple painting mediums I have found that acrylic and watercolor paints work best for me to render the expressions and attitudes of my subjects, their surroundings, and the symbolism of motifs and objects in their environments. I have two groups of paintings in this body of work that address two different aspects of the same idea, in which I consider both modern women, and the histories and tales of those in our past. Stereotypes, assumptions, social constructs, and expectations for how women should act, what they should wear, where they belong, and so on, have had such a strong grip on what women are able to do and who they can be; so I want to construct my own narrative that is one of agency, autonomy, and strength.
The first part of this project is a series of acrylic portraits on canvases of varying sizes that are focused on an exploration of body language, self-expression, and a sense of power in presenting oneself to the world however one chooses. Each has a sense of regality, a weighty presence. They may be gazing afar or downwards, or directly ahead, but none are passive. The light hits them in a way as if the sun is cast toward them simply to warm their skin and make their presences known. Each portrait starts with a reference image that may be mundane and have no particular authority, but through the process of building layers of paint in vibrant contrasting colors, I imbue an otherwise ordinary scene with as much power as I can muster.
The second collection of compositions is a group of watercolors on paper that are small, intimate and referential. The portraits are consistent in size, and reference commodity through the format of social media, as well as commercial advertisements of consumption; they could be the editorial cover of a magazine, an Instagram post, or a Facebook profile photo. They also give a nod to the tradition of Renaissance iconography with symbolic elements that reference the depictions of women throughout history, as well as contemporary imagery that is relevant to experiences and cultural phenomena of young women today. These things are revealed through the posture and attitudes expressed in the portraits, as well as chosen objects and phrases within the images. The delicacy of watercolors both in process and appearance is what makes them all the more powerful. They have a transparency, but it gives each face a sense of being lit from within. Whereas the acrylics exist with light shining upon them, the watercolor women project that light outwards.
My generation of young millennial women in the United States today exist in a unique era of progressiveness, while still grappling with systemic injustice and detriments that result from the way oppression and diverse identities intersect. No matter how much progress we have made, it seems the saying still applies that with every two steps forward we also take one step back, and this work acts as a discussion of these issues. I wish to instill these women with autonomy and control over their bodies and the way they are viewed by the world.