Sarah Roush Abstract Mixed Media Painting, Circa 1980
Sarah K. Roush (Kentucky/Ohio, 1951 – 2010)
Untitled (phallus), circa 1980
Mixed media composition including pastel and acrylic on paper collage and acrylic
From the artist’s estate.
Artist Sarah Roush was known for her Surrealist ceramic sculptures and multi-layered compositions, many of which embed figural motifs, hybrid and fantasy imagery. Interested in Mayan and Mexican culture, mythology, and spirituality, these influences greatly impacted the themes, motifs, and imagery in her work. While some of her abstract work is vibrant and uplifting, much of her work features themes of chaos, doom, mortality, and personal reflection.
Roush was a fearless and prolific artist who worked in a variety of mediums such as printmaking, oil, watercolor, acrylic, photography and ceramics. She attended Northern Kentucky University and received her MFA from the University of Cincinnati.
She was married to Jack Meanwell from the late 1970s to early 1980s. During this time, they painted models in their basement for hours, and spent summers in Canada painting landscapes. In 1986, Roush relocated to Paducah, Kentucky with her two daughters. Not long after, she opened 2 Street Studio art gallery where she had art openings to promote the work of local artists. On a trip to Hawaii in 1989, despite her fear of water, Roush went snorkeling and was overwhelmed with the beautiful sea life. This inspired her to paint sea creatures and make ceramic tiles that imitated what she saw beneath the water surface. These tiles adorned the entrance to the gallery and the entire two story façade of the building she built in the vacant lot beside her gallery. The building is still a landmark in Paducah and other buildings in the city are still adorned with her tiles today. Throughout her career, Roush continued to be an influential figure in the Paducah art scene; she co-founded the artist group Wastelanders, the Artist Relocation Program and other artist communities that were integral in developing the local art community.
After her third child was born in 1992, Roush told the story of her difficult pregnancy by sculpting large Surrealist three-dimensional ceramic sculptures, combining hand built forms with greenware. This resulted in many child motifs, fantasy imagery, hybrid figures, and even gestational themes in these elaborate ceramic pieces. As she continued making ceramics, her work evolved, imbuing commentary about politics, society, religion and spirituality. While these pieces can have a jarring effect, they also encourage further engagement and discovery from the viewer.
At age 44, Roush was diagnosed with cancer and eventually began treatment, but this did not stop her from making art. Although she was never afraid to depict existential and sometimes grotesque themes in her work, this diagnosis led her to create work that presented honest jolts of reality to viewers.
In 2004, Roush discovered that her breast cancer had metastasized to her bones, lungs and liver. While undergoing multiple rounds of treatment and frequent bone scans, MRIs, and PET scans, Roush was inspired to create digital collages, for which she layered her medical images with scenes from her trips to Mexico, flowers from her rooftop garden, and images of her children. With the intent to present beauty and positivity in the human body and mortality, these digital collages were Roush’s last works before her untimely death at age 58.
- scratches, wear, and accretions to frame; dust, debris, and residue.