Welcome to part 2 of 3 of my interview with Milwaukee, WI artist and art teacher, Sarah Ozurumba! (Here is Part 1.)
Where were you born? How long have you been doing art? What/who are your inspirations?
I was born in Park Falls, Wisconsin. Its a tiny town way up north on the Flambeau River in the middle of nowhere. I laugh when people say they are going up north and they say to the Dells. Park Falls is between Lake Superior and Minoqua, WI which is a popular getaway for city people in the summer.
I have been making art since I was about 3. My mom still has the pad of sticky notes that I filled with drawings of my family and pets. My mom is a huge inspiration in my life. She has taught me to be a good person, stay positive and live one day at a time.
As far as art goes, one person who inspired me tremendously is James Barany. He first met me when he traveled all the way up to northern Wisconsin to recruit more students for the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. I ended up going to college there, which is what brought me to Milwaukee and James helped me to apply for scholarships to help it be more affordable. He later became one of the most influential teachers in my life and I still hope I capture some of the energy for teaching that he did. James is also an artist and still works at MIAD.
As far as artists that inspire me, I am in love with the work of Manuel di Rita who is a contemporary Italian Graffiti artist more commonly known as PEETA. If I had more money, I would buy one of his paintings first! I also really love the cut paper work of Jen Stark.
What do you love about Milwaukee? How long have you lived here? Do you have family here?
I love the lake front. I jog there a lot. I love its old recycled and upcycled buildings. I love its small town meets big city charm. I love how accessible farmer’s markets are. I love that its cultural attractions are growing. I love the appreciation for good food and and Wisconsin pride that you see in so many Milwaukee shops and restaurants. And I am loving the growing interest in the art community. I have lived here since 2001 when I started college and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. My mother-in-law and sisters-in-law live here and one of my cousins has moved here to come to college too. My own family lives all over the place.
You must live and breathe art! How do you like being both an children’s Art Teacher and Artist?
Being an artist and an art teacher at the same time has made me modify my perceptions and definitions of what art can be and should be. Being an art teacher has given me more appreciation for crafts and handmade items as more valued art objects, although I am sure many art aficionados would have my head for that. But I think its a growing trend in the art world that hand made things besides paintings and sculptures are being viewed more often as high art by a young and opinionated generation. I come from a family of crafters, seamstresses, knitters, crocheters that put as much care into their craft as painters and illustrators and sculptors. Being an art teacher has allowed me to put my true personality into my work because I worry less about what people will think about it. I make the artwork because I enjoy it, and its really a bonus when someone likes my work enough to take it home with them. My feeling on this would probably be different if making art was my sole source of income.
Some people will even tell you that you can’t be an artist and an art teacher, but in my mind, I am helping to bring up the next generation of buyers, appreciators, and makers of art and I find that just as important as being consumed by my work. Part of my job as an art teacher is to be an artist.
How would you describe your artwork and your process? What makes it stand out? (No pun intended.)
I would consider my work to be somewhere between an art and a craft. I make cut paper collages with handmade and designer papers. The work is generally small and already framed which makes it easier for me to finish, easier for people to buy, and more intimate. I start a work of art by sketching first. Most of my subjects are animals. I think its easy to be inspired by creatures that share our world. The textures and shapes and colors of them are fun to translate into paper and freeze a moment of nature in time and in a frame to notice some of the smaller details. I don’t consider my work to be realistic, but more to capture a whimsical and temporary brush with something wild. I cut and layer and manipulate a variety of paper to draw and sculpt bits of nature into forms that are not quite two-dimensional or three-dimensional, but somewhere in between. I have seen other cut paper art before, but none of it is like mine exactly. My paper art tends to look a lot like the way I draw and I like the translation of it.
Read part 3!