When you think of art, it’s generally of a specific or widely touched upon genre. Artists tend to fashion their creations on a blank canvass or by way of sculpture and design. This week’s diamond in the rough is something a bit more, I’d like to say that this particular artist has evolved with her vision of abstract creativity and gone beyond the so-called canvass and delved into the human psyche by way of collaboration and a uniquely deep resonating inner beauty of human interaction that captures the awe and wonder of anyone who has the ability to sit down with her in the oasis of natural beauty that she has created called an art gallery. When I am selecting an individual to interview for The Visionary’s Manifesto, I tend to go beyond the norm and allow my spirit to journey forth and reach out to any semblance of authenticity that the subject of the interview expresses. I can say without a doubt that Sarah Raskey possesses a power that goes beyond what I imagined would be just a nice casual interviewing process. Sarah took me on a journey of such depth and magnitude that embraced my soul and furthermore accentuated my existence with a feeling of being encompassed in a safe and welcoming space surrounded by artwork worthy of being displayed in the finest museums. Allow me to introduce you to an artist extraordinaire, who’s vision of the abstract will clearly align with what we define as our constant belief of what exemplifies the best qualities of our shared humanity.
HOC: When did you make the decision to pursue your gift as a career?
SR: Honestly, creating was something I’ve always done from a really young age. In fact I remember being barely old enough to pick up a pen or pencil and as I got older I’d say around fourth or fifth grade, I remember being excited about finishing at the dinner table so that I could go up to my room and create a sacred space. It sounds strange and I only knew what I was doing as I got older, I would literally dim the lights and light candles unbeknownst to my parents (light chuckle). I would do everything just right so that I could create and it felt like I was in a different place and for me it was like the most mystical experience. I think because I had such intense relationships with art making, that as I got older other things unfolded and it was something that I could always go back to and it was like a core foundation of who I was. As you get older people, whether they mean to or not, try to compartmentalize you. The only way I could communicate my being was through the art, it was me letting people see who I really was at that time. So I went to ISU on an art scholarship and at this point I wasn’t sure how any of this was going to play out, I was at this university to learn more about what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure exactly what that was going to be. I was at least passionately committed to art making as a part of my career and soon afterwards I was introduced to art therapy which turned out to be a pivitable moment for me, I was given the opportunity to do both things that I wanted. At that age I always wanted to work with people in a creative nature if possible and it just kind of worked out that I chose it as a career because it allowed me to not give up the things that I loved and really believed in. I believed in art my entire life more than I believed in anything, it’s a strange thing because in those times to my knowledge there wasn’t any real talk of creative therapies. It seemed like I was signing up to be some sort of alien, it felt very much like an infiltration thing. But I was determined to create a path because I really believed in the union of art and therapy and maybe I would be able to communicate with people to allow them to heal in the ways that art helped me to heal throughout my own human experience. There was a lot of trial and error but it all worked out in the end.
HOC: When you are in front of a blank canvass, what goes through your mind?
SR: A little bit of everything, it’s kind of like a state of flux. You had mentioned earlier in our conversation about being fluid and on the one hand I’m really excited, there is something invigorating that whatever magic is about to take place I could have never predicted it. As an artist you are the vessel for the spirit of creativity and I always joke within myself and say, “I hope I have some good visitors tonight,” as the conduit at that particular moment. It feels like what we are doing as artistic creators is like an echo of what the universe has always done, which is create things. My intention is to change the atmosphere and to always bring something to the table that will hopefully be of help to others, so I think what goes through my mind is simply honoring the process. Truly taking in the moment to realize that what you are doing as an artist is a beautiful thing and never taking it for granted.
HOC: What was the most challenging moment you faced as an artist?
SR: Well in general as a creative there’s no framework and no rules, there’s no outline or handbook so you feel as if it’s a freefall. But there was a moment in time where my health was not in a good place and I had spent years of my life up until that specific point focusing on my art therapy I was always exhibiting my art but I felt my role was to help others. It scared me because I thought to myself, “what if I can no longer paint well enough to do my craft.” In the same way that it was really scary for me, at the same time it was also what motivated me to become more involved in the art world because I made a promise to myself that if I could start to feel better, get my so-called sea legs, that I would use my gift to facilitate as much positive change as I could. I would try to be a little more courageous in my renewed journey than I was before the illness occurred. Life is funny in a sense that what can seem like the most awful experience is somehow the catalyst for something more prolific than what we anticipated. In the past I had always put myself in the passenger seat and the art therapy was always the driving force, during all those years I felt that by allowing something other than myself to assume the driver role was somehow an act of selflessness. It felt right putting others at the forefront but what I didn’t take into account was that I could do a similar and equally powerful work through the arts, I was psychologically doing the same work but in a different way and so for the first time ever through the practicality of not being able to work at full capacity with my clients due to my health, I could honor the creative. Shifting gears at that time in my life was kind of scary because I had some deep thought around all of it because it’s hard to explain to the rest of the world why the arts are as powerful as they are. The process of coming to the realization of what you truly believe in wholeheartedly, the mechanics of why it all works and how it connects people.
HOC: Define your process when you are visualizing a specific creation of artwork?
SR: Sometimes it works a little different, I’m like a chronic note taker, sketcher and journal recorder. I do incredible amounts of research on different subjects ranging from geometry to fractals, I get inspired by certain elements that I brush up against. I sit with those ideas and marry some of them, it’s like a part of me is just waiting to be inspired by matching with the visual in regards to the conceptual framework. Something that I have enjoyed doing for a number of years is working with clients and other designers to create signature custom pieces. We collaborate to make the piece one hundred percent more meaningful by the inclusion of heartfelt writings such as poems and personal pieces that have sentimental value to the client. We have an intimate discussion about what that specific piece means to them and I gather all that important information and I offer up suggestions and we co-create a sort of hit list of what the end product should be like and then I take it intuitively from there, I try to be as open as possible when I am working with a client. I think that as human beings there is something so magnificent about the fact that if we learn to trust ourselves that we work out so much on the canvass, so I try not to get too attached to my preconceived ideas of what I think is going to happen. I learned the hard way to trust that you know more than what you perceive.
HOC: How can you tell the difference between an artist that creates as a hobby vs. an artist that creates from their soul?
SR: On the one hand it’s quasi difficult to do in the sense that if you haven’t had a conversation with a person it is hard to tell. I always try to be respectful of the fact that someone was brave enough to create in the first place because it really is like showing your diary. Sometimes it may come across as someone being repetitive about a piece and there is an inherent market place value as if it’s being quickly generated in somewhat of a thoughtless pattern in more of a business sense as opposed to deep soul work. But on the other hand you could have someone who has a creation that really means something to them so they decide to make copies of the pieces. I think that it is undeniable and unmistakable when you stand next to a piece that someone has invested their soul in, there is a frequency that happens for me personally that resonates, reaches out and just shakes you. A clear crisp moment in time where you quietly voice the words, “I see you through the artwork, I feel you and I see you.” In that way I can tell if the person who created the art really put something of themselves into it, there is an intangible part of our being that can be communicated despite any language barriers due to the depth of emotion within the artistic expressions embedded in a tangible piece of art.
HOC: Can a great piece of artwork be created in the absence of love?
SR: Absolutely, I have been present with people who created brilliant pieces of art out of their pain. They had to get that bitterness out of their being in a holistic way, the artwork was made from a place of pain and healing. So to love thyself means that you know enough to do that soul mending work for yourself.
HOC: What will your legacy be?
SR: I want my work to outlive me in a plethora of ways, I want so badly to express that art is such a powerful resource. I’m one artist that has accomplished what I set out to do and that was to show that art breaks down all barriers and that it’s such a vital tool for us to use and it hasn’t been used to its full capacity. If we were to take a step back and look at using art to address some of the things that are happening on the planet, whether it is just forming a more global consciousness. I hope to use my art where it starts a conversation that really needs to happen, art is such a subtle way to wake people up. I also want part of my legacy to be about someone being able to do their own healing work by creating custom artwork. For years I have invited people into a comfortable space and asked them what do they want the artwork to do for them on a personal level, how can we make it symbolic. My gallery is set up like a sacred space and it allows someone who doesn’t know about art to walk in and be immersed in something creative and beautiful.
HOC: What final thoughts would you like to leave with our audience, whether it be about your amazing gift and or life lessons?
SR: I feel very fortunate that I honored my creative process throughout my life, I paid attention and I feel that is what life is about. I am so grateful that by paying attention it brought such beautiful people and experiences into my world that may not have existed otherwise. It’s always easier not to rise to the occasion and it’s okay to admit to having some fears but then you reach that fork in the road where you tell yourself that this is something I believe in and for those reasons however things turn out, you come to a place of acceptance of that which is the greater gift within your creative spirit.
HOC: We here at The Visionary’s Manifesto and Heart of Cool honor you Sarah Raskey and if I may borrow your quote, “we see you through your artwork, we feel you and see you,” for your life’s work and legacy. If you would like to know more about Sarah Raskey and her creative artistry please visit her website at www.sarahraskey.com and www.oatherapychicago.com