An Interview with Sage Dawson
Sage Dawson is an artist operating in an expanded mode of printmaking that has moved well beyond the printshop. In fact, she is co-hosting a panel at next year's Southern Graphics Council Conferenced titled Site Responsive Print which will highlight projects where printed matter intersects with time-based media, performance, painting, sculpture, installation, social practice, and public works. Her own work investigates how surface can create space, the compelling repetition of form inherent in architecture and she often finds way to draw from historic precedents that can be given new meaning in a contemporary context or mode of display.
She conceived of and runs a project space in St. Louis called STNDRD which uses the structure of the flagpole as a prompt for invited artists to create new work in response to. Our founder, Liz was a previous invited artist which is how we became aware of Sage's terrific body of work. She answers some of our questions below and shares some of her favorite spots to see contemporary art in St. Louis - check it out!
When did you start printing?
I starting printing in high-school and from there I enrolled in a printmaking class in college. This led to a number of small decisions made over years that all added up to becoming an artist and working with printmaking extensively.
Where do you make your work? Home studio? Shared print space?
My studio is in downtown Saint Louis on the fourth floor of a former shoe warehouse. It's a 600 square foot space with tall ceilings and natural light. I have a Chandler and Price Letterpress that I use to print smaller work, and when I need access to a larger etching/relief press I use either an Island Press or Takach press in the print shop at Washington University where I teach.
How do you see your print background informing your more expanded practice?
Printmaking is nearly always an important basis for my work. It's processes are intensive and multi-fold, and I usually develop matrices and build the surfaces of prints for extended periods of time. I'm drawn to the repetitive nature of printmaking. All of the media I use outside of print, whether painting, drawing, or sculptural, tends to be printerly in texture, color, and line, and I gravitate to working with them repetitively.
When I'm looking at the built environment around me or working site-specifically, I notice multiples. I think this is driven by my personality and from experience thinking about and working with the democratic potential of print. This past year I've been cataloging Saint Louis ornamental brick found on historic buildings. The process of individual bricks being arranged together to build a structure seem parallel to how individual type is composed together on a letterpress bed, for example.
What are you working on at the moment?
This past week I finished and installed an outdoor site-specific piece for the Enos Park Neighborhood (based in Springfield, Illinois) as part of an off-site project for the Terrain Biennial based in Oak Park, Illinois. The international exhibition consists of site-specific art made for front yards, balconies, and porches. My project was curated by James McAnally, Director of The Luminary, and is called Common Shift. The project examines the architecture of a small, historic house in Enos Park at 1105 N. 7th Street, and expands to a more comprehensive look at the current architectural state of the neighborhood. Domestic labor specific to the region was also a key research component to the project, as well as looking at suffrage banners.
James McAnally summed up Common Shift in his curatorial essay by describing the project as one that "engages a complex history of domestic labor, suffrage protests, architectural erasure and the undulating developments of the Enos Park neighborhood over the past century. Common Shift brings together historical needlepoint techniques - particularly those, like open-work, which were most common in times of economic hardship - along with architectural patterning from the surrounding neighborhood, as well as color and material references drawn from suffragette protest banners for a site-sensitive installation comprised of canvas, collagraphs, hand-stitching, brooms and banners."