Brooklyn artist brings fresh perspective to McKinley Arts Center

Sarah Phillips

The patterns found on the insides of security envelopes are a familiar sight to most of us who work in offices or remember the not-so-distant time before paperless bank statements. For artist Sarah Nicole Phillips of Brooklyn, these complex and varied forms of camouflage for sensitive documents became a source of valuable material for her artwork.

Phillips’ current exhibition in Reno at McKinley Arts & Culture Center titled “You’ve Been Selected”, is a clever reference to both the similarly named junk mail for credit cards or prize sweepstakes, and yet also connects to the content of her imagery.

Working for an office job opening mail all day, Phillips was inspired by the many colors and types of textures found in the mail of different financial institutions, phone carriers, and shipping companies.  With concern for environmental issues and conscious “green” art practice, Phillips began making highly complex collages out of these envelopes she worked with daily, which would otherwise be considered trash. With such a strict choice of medium to make art from, one might think that it would severely limit the range of ability to create diverse images. Yet seeing her work in person, it is surprising to see the dozens of varieties of pattern and color side by side. Also apparent is the impressive technical effort it takes to create subtle changes in light and shape out of having limited, pre-designed scraps of paper.

“You’ve Been Selected” is a body of collages containing flora-inspired imagery, ranging from complex and intensive studies of seemingly mundane patches of grass, to expansive and fantastic images of trees being beamed up into the sky as if they were extra-terrestrials leaving their temporary Earthly home. Phillips explains that she daydreams about forests of trees making the rational decision to leave. The result of seeing Phillips’ opposing use of mundane institutional documents to create fantastic landscapes stirs up images of a bored office worker dreaming up wild stories of the secret lives of the plant world.

The artist reception for Sarah Nicole Phillips’ exhibition is tonight from 5:30 to 7:30pm, Thursday January 23, 2014 at McKinley Arts & Culture Center. It is a rare treat to have a national artist fly to Reno to host his or her own reception, so we are excited and honored to have her here to meet and speak about her work.

McKinley Galleries East & West are the City of Reno’s contemporary arts galleries, featuring work from national artists such as Phillips as well as emerging and established regional artists. This current exhibit is up until February 28, 2014, with gallery hours Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm.

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