Sadie Harmon was our Works In Progress artist on December 2, 2008.
Sadie Harmon creates multimedia installations from drawings, collages, and sculpture. Her work investigates the connections between the lexicon of cultural references such as Twin Peaks, sideshow performers, and 'the abyss.' Harmon's work illuminates obscure connections within her dynamic subjects and maps out their hidden associations through delicate yet powerful installations. Her work unfolds as a specific portrait of one's interior reasoning, laced with sufficient evidence to entangle the viewer. Sadie Harmon received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008.
1. Could you describe an average day in the studio? Do you have any routines?
I like to get all of my materials out, even if I only have one thing that I’m working on. Generally, I spread myself out and have lots of paper and paper scraps, glue, thread, etc. I tend to occupy my whole space when I work, so I’ll bring everything into the dining room and spread out on the floor and table and chairs. I have a small room that is supposed to be a studio, but it’s really full of stuff so it’s more like storage for all of the odds and ends that I keep. If I’m spending the whole day working on something, I’ll make a pot of tea in the morning and drink that all day, then break for lunch. It’s pretty boring actually – just like if you’d spend the day working on anything. The nice thing is that when I’m working in the dining room, I have a great view of the abandoned tracks outside my window, as well as the apartment building across the way. There’s a person whose window is opposite mine and they will spend hours rocking back and forth, so sometimes I’ll sit and watch that for a while. I tend to get into a zone where I lose track of time and just work, but I’m easily distracted, so if someone makes a noise, that’s it. Then I’ll watch my neighbor or drink my tea.
2. What do you collect and how does it inspire you?
I love collecting things, but I’d say that there are a few categories of things that I am most drawn to: images and natural material. I collect images from old books, the image files at the Harold Washington Library, cards for art shows, and old postcards or other ephemera from used bookstores, garage sales, etc. Whenever I travel anywhere I collect natural materials from my trip. When I went to New Orleans last summer, among other things I brought home a large beetle, some Spanish moss (still alive today!) and some Magnolia blossoms. I try to bring home a pine cone from everywhere I visit. This December I went on a trip to the west coast, and brought home some really nice rocks from Eastern Washington. Rocks, pine cones, and sticks are my favorite. Naturally occurring patterns and designs definitely influence my work, and a lot of what I do I think references nature in some way. I also really love getting bizarre images out of context. I’ve tried incorporating them into my work, but now I think it’s easier just to have them around. They’re like a little community for me.
3. What do you like to listen to/watch while creating?
I like to watch reruns of old TV shows on ME TV. My favorites are The Fugitive, The Twilight Zone, and Bewitched. It has to be something that can be on in the background and that doesn’t draw me in too much. I also like British mystery shows on PBS. If I’m not in a TV mood, I’ll listen to radio shows – RadioLab, This American Life, and Anything Ghost are my favorites. I like listening to stories, because the flow matches my work. I tried listening to lectures but it was too distracting. I don’t really ever listen to music anymore while I work. I used to when I was in college, but now I prefer to hear people talking at me.
4. What are some of your favorite websites/blogs to visit?
My all time favorite right now is bookforum.com. I really liked their magazine, but every day on their website they will provide about 25 links to different articles and news stories. They do a pretty good job of varying their content and providing a mix of topical news stories, personal narratives, and more obscure things. One of the best stories I’ve read has been about mushrooms surviving off the radiation at Chernobyl. I also like BibliOdyssey, because it’s like being able to spend hours looking through special collections at the library (of course, that takes some of the fun of discovery out of it, but I still think it’s a great resource). I guess I also have to say Wikipedia, because I find it immensely useful. I also like searching for different libraries’ digital collections. I stumbled upon the digital collection of the Alaska State Library and found some really incredible images from the turn of the century.
5. What is your favorite piece in the MCA collection?
I really liked the Drawing show a few years ago that had pieces from the collection. The Henry Darger drawings are obviously great, but there was a Deb Sokolow drawing up that I still remember as well. I also love the Sarah Sze piece that was up this summer. Seeing her stuff installed is always great.
6. What do you do in your studio when you are procrastinating?
Talk to anyone within earshot, read a book, make food, do the dishes, stare out the window, go for a walk. Mostly I don’t procrastinate, but when I do it’s because I’m having trouble solving a problem or because things aren’t turning out the way I thought they would. It’s a lot like trying to do a math assignment that you don’t totally get. When you hit a wall it can get totally frustrating and you have to take a break for a while.
7. Who (living or dead) would you invite to a cocktail party?
I think I’d invite everyone, and then let in the first 100 people. I like a good mix at my cocktail parties.