By Staff | Photographs by Hong Sar
Being a surrealist painter can be daunting considering the historic giants of the genre: Salvador Dali, Joan Miró, and Dorothea Tanning, to name but a few.
However, Postindustrial Painters Sarah Jacobs and Evan Boggess appear unfazed by the challenge of living up to that legacy, having produced bold and stylistically complex series of surrealist paintings that would impress the surrealist titans of yore.
Both Jacobs and Boggess are currently showing at Zynka Gallery in Pittsburgh, where you admire their work through Oct. 28.
Gallery owner Jeffrey Jarzynka has long been a champion of Jacobs, who went to art school with Boggess, and recommended to Jarzynka they exhibit together.
“Sarah’s surrealist work complements very well what Evan is doing, which is very surreal,” said Jarzynka.
Boggess’ surrealism combines aspects and imagery from his upbringing in the Mountain State, while also paying homage to a variety of artistic styles to create his surrealist tableaus, including images reminiscent of the work of realist, Dutch Golden Age painting.
“I switch gears a lot just kind of to keep my Golden Doodle [dog] brain on target, otherwise I get distracted by different things,” quipped Boggess. “So I switch gears a lot.”
Boggess said he has “an intense fascination with very complex layered painting processes and painting materials and how that forms a conversation with the methods … how I collect my imagery.”
He said each of his large canvases begins with a childlike scrawl which “sort of establishes what might come out of the composition.”
Boggess incorporates a variety of techniques in his work, including even airbrushing, which he claims he’s “terrible at,” though his self-deprecating assessment of his own skill doesn’t hold up against his mesmerizing creations.
“I like this complex process because it feels like a chess game that makes me think five moves ahead while I’m working.”
Jacobs, a Pennsylvania native, has created a series of deeply personal and engaging paintings that also make use of multiple mediums, even body painting.
“My previous series of work was more formal, but my new work is more surrealist and about me,” said Jacobs, who endured a recent health crisis that inspired aspects of this new collection, as well as other impactful memories.
“A couple of years ago, I had some crises where I almost died a couple of times and so it made me think about existential concerns a lot more, then I started going to therapy and it made my work really weird,” she joked.
A self-styled “city girl” Jacobs said she strived to depict more nature in these works, while also indulging her newfound surrealist tendencies and roping her partner into the process.
“I had my partner paint stripes of color across my body,” she said with a creator’s mischievousness that adds to the gaiety of her layered and thoughtful work.
Jacobs’ work also includes “otherworldly” imagery such as her painting of a globe draped in a white cloth against a dark void.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about outer space and how so much of it is unknowable, and that’s how I feel about existence as well,” she explained. “We may never learn the nature of reality.”
Spoken like a true surrealist — Dali would be proud of both of them.
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