SMALL-TOWN ONTARIO ARTIST TURNS LANDSCAPES INTO NOSTALGIC DREAMS

Story by Sasha Johnson

The bust of the naked woman seeped south, flopping into her face, and her legs spread wide as she balanced on her head. The self-portrait hung incongruously on the wall. Standing in front of the painting was a young girl, small in comparison to the canvas’s six foot scale. It was Sarah Tacoma’s first visit to an art gallery and she was in awe of the painting that commanded her attention at eleven-years-old.

Despite this early love for art, not until Tacoma was seventeen, after a yearlong exchange in Japan, did she consider it as a viable career path. She documented the trip with her first camera, but could not afford to develop the film while she was away. When she returned home to see the photos her mother had developed for her, she was so pleased with the results she decided to enroll in Sheridan College’s Photography and Painting Program. She graduated in 2004.

Today she works out of a studio down the road from her home in Cannington, Ontario. It’s not surprising that the thirty-year-old photographer resides in a small town north of Toronto. Her poignantly provoking landscapes encapsulate a foggy beauty best captured outside the city. In the nostalgic space between a forgotten dream and a faint memory lie the smooth, tinted visions of untamed lands―either untapped or abandoned. Sarah creates the vistas, fitting of pixies and fawns, by taking a photo on film. She prints the image on fine art paper, which is then glued to wood. She scratches into the image and paints the photo to accentuate certain areas. The final piece is then covered in beeswax, a natural encaustic process. “It creates this kind of haze over the whole thing…which sets it back and makes it kind of dreamy,” says Sarah. The thicker she applies the wax to a specific area, the foggier it becomes, allowing the thin layers in other areas the ability to enhance details of the image. The result is a privileged view of how Sarah sees the world. Many people miss little details, she says, like the way the light may be shining through a leaf. Sarah captures the moments and landscapes that would be overlooked and reveals them again, from beneath a soothing mist that highlights the beautifully organic settings.

“We have so much great stuff right out our backdoor and we don’t see it anymore,” she says. Sarah takes photos everyday, often the images are never even looked at, but particular scene may hold her attention and she returns at dawn or dusk. Currently she is working on a series of images of doors. The pieces are on a small scale, three inches by five inches. “I flip between making huge pieces to making the smallest pieces,” says Sarah, who may begin creating landscapes on a tiny scale as well. The murky dreamscape theme will likely carry on in her work, as she has plans on creating distorted images, photographed through glass.

This summer she will be travelling to the Yukon and plans on taking a series of photos there, which will be exhibited later this year. Her work is available in Toronto at Canvas Gallery and Norman Felix Art Gallery.

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