Art Maker: Sally Clegg, printmaker and painter

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Prints pulled from etched copper plates by Sally Clegg at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sally Clegg working on her prints pulled from etched copper plates at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Prints pulled from etched copper plates by Sally Clegg at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Prints pulled from etched copper plates by Sally Clegg at Zea Mays Printmaking. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 8/18/2017 7:52:59 AM

Sally Clegg, who’s been active for several years with Zea Mays Printing in Florence, brings a unique view to her prints and paintings. There’s a mix of abstraction, surrealism and the occasional recognizable image — a window frame, a table, a loopy-looking camel — that conveys humor and an altered perspective of the world.

“I’m trying to visualize things we don’t see,” says Clegg, 29, of Northampton. “In particular, I'm interested in physical sensations of the skin and the things people do when they are entirely alone. I like to combine invention, observation, and personal experience to create and manipulate narrative.” 

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Sally Clegg: Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about procreation and femininity. My current work began with soft sculptures that I made as stand-ins for bodies or parts of bodies. I took some pictures with them, made drawings from the photos, and then translated the drawings into copper-plate etchings. Printmaking allows me to create multiples of the same image, which opens up a ton of possibilities for relating the work itself to its content. It's also just fun and difficult and an all-around beautiful process.

H.L.: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

I’m inspired by secrets and the underbelly of things, and mostly by people who are brave in addressing these. Eureka moments rarely happen for me, and when they do they typically come from writing about the work after it’s made. 

Once in a while I’m inspired by everyday absurdity. Recently I made an artist’s book, the seed of which came from the name of a dessert at the Thai restaurant Miss Saigon. I saw it on the menu about four years ago and it triggered me to laugh uncontrollably for several minutes. It was called The Midnight Pearl. 

H.L.: How do you know when your work is finished?

S.C.: It takes a lot of distance for me to see that. Sometimes I’ll look at a piece years later and notice that it is either very underdone or entirely overworked. In the moment I just take my best guess, or I rely on running out of time.

H.L.: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

S.C.: My first few oil paintings at 10 or 11 were just tortured smears because I didn’t know you couldn’t use water with oil paint. I am often prone to technical difficulty. This rarely ends in a wonderful discovery, but it's how I learn and I can appreciate it for that reason. 

H.L.: What’s the most recent exhibition or event by another artist or group that you've attended and enjoyed?

S.C.: I saw John Bechtold’s immersive adaptation of “The Winter's Tale” last fall in Greenfield and I was really moved by it. I love theater and dance; it’s magic to me. 

H.L.: What’s your go-to snack while you’re working?

S.C.: Milky tea and mint-flavored toothpicks, and Snickers.

H.L.: What do you do when you’re stuck?

S.C.: As an introspective person, I’ve come to rely deeply on friends, mentors, and community. My best move when I’m stuck is to talk about it with someone.

— Steve Pfarrer

Sally Clegg’s work has recently been part of group exhibitions at Forbes Library in Northampton and Sleep Center Gallery in New York City. She has a solo show scheduled next spring at Hampden Galley at UMass Amherst. Her website is sallyclegg.com.




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