by Sarah Rose Sharp
Results or Roses: New and Assorted Works is an exhibition of new and collected fiber-based works by artist and writer Sarah Rose Sharp. Sharp's fiber art incorporates salvaged and found bits of cultural and fiber art that, as she explains, "forms a discourse that is physical rather than textual."
Thanks to our grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we supported Sharp's work on Results and Roses during the summer of 2020, but due to COVID-19 were forced to postpone the pop-up exhibition also scheduled for summer 2020. This fall we installed Results and Roses as a pop-up exhibition in the Osterman Common Room. Due to building security, it's not open to the general public, but we are thrilled to present the work here as a virtual exhibition.
About the Artist
Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, photographer and multimedia artist. She writes about art and culture for Art in America, Hyperallergic, Flash Art, Sculpture Magazine, ArtSlant and others. Sarah was named a 2015 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow for Art Criticism and is a 2018 recipient of the Rabkin Foundation Prize. She is a guest lecturer at several universities in Southeast Michigan and served as a mentor in the NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentorship Program in 2018. Sarah has served as guest curator and juror for institutions including Penn State University (State College, PA), Scarab Club (Detroit, MI), The Terhune Gallery (Toledo, OH), and The Ann Arbor Art Center (Ann Arbor, MI). Sarah has shown her own work in New York, Seattle, Columbus & Toledo, OH, Covington, KY, and Detroit—including at the Detroit Institute of Arts—with solo shows at Simone De Sousa Gallery and Public Pool. She is primarily concerned with artist and viewer experiences of making and engaging with art, and conducts ongoing research into the state of contemporary art in redeveloping cities, with special focus and regard for Detroit.
Sarah Rose Sharp has been an integral part of the arts community in Detroit and outlying areas for nearly a decade. As an artist and art journalist, her work and practice are embedded in any notion of place and belonging, and where we find ourselves. A native Californian, her recent series of constructions seem to be searching for home. Some are nostalgic for the West, knowing heartbreak and longing for the familiar past. Others create exciting new emblems and patterns representative of Sharp’s adopted city of Detroit.
As a curator, I am resistant to parse apart the myriad of ways Sharp’s craft activates intellectual, emotional, and physical spaces. Everything she does is informed by all that she sees, researches, digests, and collects, regardless of her medium. She is a self-described generalist. Everything is everything.
Sharp’s point of view is idiosyncratic in the best sense, unconcerned with outside voices. We are left with the impression that she deeply loves and acknowledges every bead, swatch, stitch, and pattern fiercely, intolerant of any imposed hierarchy. She has a clear personal relationship with the materials she uses and the artworks she makes. The viewer develops a surprisingly personal relationship with the works as well. A pillow-like self-portrait expresses the edginess of self-scrutiny through a giant electrifying eye in perpetual vigil. Conversely, an endearing portrait of her dog embodies pillowy unconditional kindness and acceptance we soon covet. The scale of the work forges intimacy and connection. She invites us inside and to stay awhile. Her swatches read like a travelogue, charting the artist’s journey toward home.
Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking in this body of work is Immigrant Song 1, 2020. The square of fabric is exploding with beads and sequins, embroidery, communicating boundless exuberance and promise. Yet, in all the opulence, there is something poignant: Sharp’s grandmother Rose began work on the piece years ago. There is such tenderness in this ongoing process, one woman beginning where the other left off. One can imagine the work continuing to evolve, baubles spilling over the frame, taking on a life of its own.
Over these past six months, Sharp has been producing work as part of a residency at the Institute for the Humanities, supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Due to U-M and state protocols in response to the pandemic, her finished exhibition could not be available for viewing in person. However, her residency and her work, produced under duress, offered renewed emphasis on the creative process, representative of her unflinching commitment to her practice regardless of proof or more traditional outcomes.
In many respects, Results or Roses gets closest to the heart of the matter—the daily investment and effort required in the making, in the sewing, the tending to, the focus, the problem-solving, energized by what continues to excite us, inspire us, where we find hope. The proof is in the work, and her commitment, not the big show. It’s undeniable, gallery or not.
Each of Sharp’s individual works is an authentic record, to both the making and the scrap, the anxiety and the comfort, the continuity and loose ends.
-Amanda Krugliak, Arts Curator, Institute for the Humanities.