Spirals and Thresholds
“The psychic garden is a state of mind; a state of being. An ecology of you, me, us; where cultivation, cycles, and evolution occur. The psychic garden needs to be tended and listened to.”

Sara Hess asks us: “What parts of ourselves do we feel called to spread?” The absent presence of Hess’s great aunt Marge haunts the kitchen window we enter through to discover her garden, where the psyche lives in the gut that connects women to maternal knowledge.

Porous glazed ceramic and glass have become charmingly misshapen kitchenware; papier-mâché has been made into kitchen windows, through which are visible spiraling plants and a giant flower. Water hoses reminiscent of the tendril telephone wires in the house and a log-like spoon growing a green cursive, L-shaped ecology are there to punningly remind us of the love and listening that must be practiced in a garden for everything to grow.

Accompanying the show is Hess’s whimsical index cataloguing the body and its environment. Doing dishes becomes a ritualistic practice grounded at the kitchen window. It is the threshold that oversees similar thresholds, such as a naval or cat door, and becomes a space of reflection and introspection. Glass and wooden tiles create a medley of garden memories and provocative questions—“If I drew a map of my body, where would you live?”—or proffer threshold-like words (such as “until”). Some have casts of Hess’s own naval as a grounding center. A papier-mâché archway plays with the image of the naval as a flower, with its umbilical connection to the garden.

The spiral suggests not only a connection to nature, but a practice unfolding in time. Hess’s nostalgia for the past replicates itself through images of symbiosis, which she releases from their form to metamorphose into something more graspable and present, yet also oddly elusive. These spiraling lines that are sometimes words are also sometimes illegible or completely word-less. We are both invited in and kept out of Hess’s psychic garden – which after all is a highly personal experience for her that we can perhaps imagine but never ourselves embody. To each their own microbiome.

—Michiko Kubota

Artist Statement 
I am curious about intimacy, love, domesticity, and maternal inheritance. Through my work, I explore the complexities of interpersonal and intrapersonal communication. For me, listening is essential to communication. I prioritize intuition and embrace the incidental, which aligns with listening. Intuition is synonymous with the psychic gut, which I tend to like a garden. I accumulate collections of material objects—ephemeral, extant, discarded, documented, and archived. Though I am driven materially, I also embrace the autobiographical as material. I resist "mastery" of any one specific medium and insist upon the clumsy space of unknowing and play, and the constant, transformative nature of material. Engaging, manipulating, and rearranging materials serves as an analog for navigating these interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships—a collection of iterations and a tactile dialogue between hands and material. I am eager to visualize the act of listening and continue asking what parts of ourselves do we feel called to spread?  

Sara Hess is an artist living and working between Columbus, OH and Athens, GA. She earned a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Georgia's Lamar Dodd School of Art and is currently an MFA candidate and Graduate Teaching Associate at The Ohio State University. Her interdisciplinary studio practice utilizes painting, printmaking, discarded objects, ceramics, sculpture, and installation. Through her work and relationship to images, materials, and people, she endeavors to listen deeply. Sara has exhibited work regionally and nationally at Stove Works in Chattanooga TN, Erie Art Museum in Erie PA, and IPCNY in New York. Previous residencies include In Cahoots in Petaluma CA, Chautauqua Visual Arts in Chautauqua NY, and Officina Stamperia del Notaio in Tusa, Sicily. She is co-founder of Two Parts Press, a printmaking studio and artist collaboration currently based in Athens, GA.

Photo: Amber Elison