Sarah May is a storyteller. Those stories may appear as poems, images, sculptures or combination of the same. You may remember her 2016 exhibit at Mestizo Gallery, where she used the folk art form of the retablo to explore issues of identity and racial stereotyping. In Glances, a series which was featured in our 35×35 exhibition of the same year, she paired black and white photographs with her poems to create an imagined narrative.
The graduate of the University of Utah (BFA in Photography & Digital Imaging) and Westminster College (MA in Community Leadership with an Emphasis in Art & Culture) has completed four national and international artist residencies, with her most recent artist-in-residency at the Center for Photography in Woodstock, New York. It was in New York that May began her newest series, which reimagines the retablo as a series of fiber works imprinted with cyanotype imagery to “explore the archetypes of the Ancestresses on both sides of my maternal and paternal lineage; Indigenous Central American and Celtic.”
“My ancestors created woven tapestries illustrating their lives, history, stories, and dreams. Through dreams and meditation, I have felt and seen my ancestors as guardians of love and light, including ancestors I knew during this life and those I only know in my dreams,” she says. “These tapestries are a contemporary creation reflecting the future and the past into the present, with portraits of my ancestors represented by myself wearing different outfits to represent each ancestral archetype. Through these portraits, I am playing a role, a mirror, and an echo of my ancestors who live within me, and I who live within them. This is a project of acceptance, healing cycles, and matriarchal wisdom and stories created and restored.”
The written word has always been important to May’s work and she plans on incorporating embroidered text. She’s also writing more with Plumas Colectiva, a Salt Lake City group of Latinx writers. The group will be publishing a zine of the group’s works next month (see an example of May’s contributions below) and May hopes to put together a body of her own work that can be published as a chapbook later this year.
You can view more of May’s work at www.sarahlizmay.com or on Instagram.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.