Sarah Sze, ‘Portrait of JS’, 2009, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

“I am interested in how something can sit on the border of its identity,” Sarah Sze has reflected. The very question of what constitutes the contours of personal identity is explored in her portrait drawings, which operate on the basis of personal narrative rather than mimetic likeness. According to Sze: “The portrait drawings . . . were done by asking each subject to write down twelve significant events in his or her life and then send me the list in an envelope. I then drew the twelve events as a conversation, and they became a portrait.” In this way, each likeness transforms moments of personal significance into a labyrinthine arrangement analogous to the structure of memory itself. The artist’s portraits thus function like imaginative maps of the self, in which personal recollection blends with artistic interpretation and scale expands and contracts.

Image rights: © Sarah Sze

Speyer Family Collection, New York

About Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze said that she perpetually collects little things everywhere she goes, so her works can be thought of as autobiographical records of where she’s been. Her materials include quotidian and even mundane objects, like office supplies, electric lights, fans, water systems, houseplants, birthday candles, Q-Tips, and Asprin. Sze is best known for creating sprawling installations and sculptures that stretch suspended from floor to ceiling. The arrangements are closely packed compositions that variously reference both landscape and architecture; yet in spite of being three-dimensional, the sculptures emphasize delicate lines. Themes in her work include ecology, interconnectivity, and labor. Richard Serra, an admirer of her work, has commended Sze for “changing the potential of sculpture.”

American, b. 1969, Boston, Massachusetts, based in New York, New York