Sara Eichner


I've been formulating an idea -- it's still percolating, so I haven't fully thought it out yet -- but I've been formulating this idea that art, true art, should be the creation of beautiful objects. This is in contrast with the great flow of 20th century art, which is mostly about the creation of desirable objects. That's a fine distinction but an important one. It seems to me that one of the things we can take away from Duchamp's Fountain is its assertion that art is about creating desirable objects, and that any object can be made desirable through the thoughts of a magician, in this case someone given the title of "Artist." Conceptualism even does away with the object, leaving only the desire.

More on this later, as I work it out. In the meantime, I ask you to think about Sara Eichner, and how she has created some beautiful objects.

Sara Eichner, red hexagons, 2006, oil on panel, 40x82 inches I wrote about Sara very briefly as part of a group show I saw at McKenzie Fine Art. I said that I liked her paintings but I'd like to see her work larger. Sara found my review and sent me e-mail to let me know that she had started working larger and inviting me to her solo show at Sears-Peyton Gallery.

I was momentarily horrified that Sara might have followed my advice. I strongly advise against following my advice. But upon re-reading her message I found she told me she'd been working on the paintings in the show for a year and a half or so. I was relieved: This was just a case of two great minds thinking alike, not a case of someone doing what I suggested.

Sara Eichner, fence, 2006, oil on panel, 47x65 inches Sara was willing to meet me to take me through her paintings, so we got together for an hour or so on November 3. (Perhaps now would be a good time to read this side note on my working method.) While there I met Gaines Peyton, one half of the gallery's partners, and some of their staff. I also got taken through the door labeled "Private" and into the gallery's back room which, oddly enough, is bigger than its front room but mostly empty, except for a big flat file cabinet. Sara's work has been flying out the door so quickly she only has one painting in the flat file, and it's a small one, so it looks very lonely and sad in there.

Sara's paintings definitely look better in the company of each other. All together they transform the space of a room into a funhouse of crazily angled surfaces. Most of her current work involves apparent surfaces which are tilted away from the picture plane; any one might induce vertigo if you're not careful, and a bunch of them at once is a little like being stuck in the middle of an Escher etching.

Sara Eichner, red floral wallpaper, 2006, oil on panel, 47x72 inches These paintings occupy a wonderful space in art, too. They're fantastically accessible but there's a lot of painterly subtlety in them. Sara told me she found herself at this point, painting these akimbo fields of tiles or wallpaper patterns, by going from figure painting through landscape painting and out to these simplified, abstracted, seemingly infinite surfaces. Each one seems recognizable because each painting is inspired by a real surface. They are, really, very particular landscapes.

And Sara builds them with the techniques of landscape painting. Particularly she's looking to invest each painting with a sense of air between the viewer and the painting surface. So she might add a little blue to the otherwise plain white of the spaces between the tiles -- an old landscape trick to fool the eye into seeing an object as more distant than it really is.

Sara Eichner, green shingle siding (detail), 2006, oil on panel She uses a computer to help her play with the perspective before she lays it out, and then marks off a grid on her panel to guide her painting. But after that it's a manual process and it shows. Looking at her online reproductions you might think she could simply print these out from an inkjet, but when you see them in person it's clear how handmade these really are. The whole surface is wonderfully alive with the imperfections of oil painting: Differences in paint thickness, slight alligatoring here and there, a drip and a spatter maybe; maybe a spot where two adjacent colors don't quite line up. It's interesting because I can see where a less talented painter might have chosen her subject but tried to paint it as flat as possible; or where another painter might have chosen her less-than-perfect style but used it on entirely different subjects. The brilliance of Sara's paintings lies in her combination of the two; they vibrate and change the air in front of them.

And the larger paintings definitely work better. There's a certain twee charm to the small ones, but I think these subjects are better when they're big and have room to breathe, to make you breathe with them.

Sara Eichner, blue damask wallpaper, 2006, gouache on watercolor paper, 30x22 inches In addition to the paintings Sara also has some gouaches up. They look curiously flocked and remind me strongly of my Aunt Joan's wallpaper, only hers had gold veins and red velvet flocking. I'm not sure I like Sara's wallpaper designs as much as I like her tilings, but they're the flip side of each other: As she makes explicit when she titles a diptych inside outside, her tilings are the outer walls and her wallpaper the inner.

Steven LaRose, obverse of drawing, 2006, pencil on illustration board One thing I had to ask Sara was whether her paintings had a definite orientation. I was thinking about this because just a couple of days earlier I'd gotten a couple of drawings in the mail from Steven LaRose and he'd written on the back "Make sure you flip the orientation every couple of months." Sara assured me that her paintings did have an up and a down because, again, she's trying to put the viewer into a real space, to have them feel they're standing in relation to an actual surface.

Sara Eichner has certainly created some beautiful objects. They are also desirable, as evidenced by the number of sales. I think her paintings stand at the perfect confluence of art and accessibility: Anyone can enjoy her paintings and be moved by them, but they're not kitsch and they're not simple. I expect to see a lot of Sara in the future.


I want one! I want one! Fancy wallpaper one, please.

[checks wallet]Um, I can give you an inkjet print....

Her paintings are exquisite. Thanks for writing about her work!

Having a famous author as a stepmom hasn't hurt her either.

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