tess sarbutt

Artist Statement: 

I want to facilitate art-making that changes lives and builds community. I believe that quality of life is enhanced by making things, not consuming them. I want to prioritize /privilege women’s stories to examine and strengthen matrifocal aspects of cultural bonds. I want to share the outcomes with my own cultural world to encourage the possibility of enhancing matrifocal aspects of our world communities.

At the heart of my work lies the overall theme of “absence”. My primary concern is with the absence of children — and with actions taken (such as forcing children to be soldiers) to make entire groups disappear. My sculptural work focuses on found and foraged cultural artifacts, manipulated to remove them from their customary use and meaning.

To discuss the absence of children I use discarded stuffed animals, baby blankets and children’s clothes invested with new referential cues by the application of white paint and plaster. The treated stuffed toys are strangely tactile — once soft and cuddly, they are now rigid. Some pieces stand alone, some are wall pieces and some are placed on the floor. The large bears work well because their fur hardens into interesting textured forms.

My concept is supported with a documentary video of individual women talking about the absence of children in their lives. The B-roll is footage of workshops where women make installations as memorials to absent children. The video presents a world without children — a world gone wrong. The documentary clips will also form the basis of a video art installation with a number of monitors playing at the same time.

A further ongoing project about the absence of children will result in a mural of many tiny [6x6”] portraits of children, in oil on canvas. The images reference discarded children — they directly address individual babies yet represent hundreds of millions of unwanted children, of lives not lived or irreparably damaged.


San Francisco, CA94117