Sara Steele is an artist, activist, gardener, environmentalist, a generalist in life and a specialist in watercolor painting. An expressionist painter, she applies ecstatic, undivided attention to her work, inviting viewers to drench themselves in color and light.
A colorist, Steele’s inspiration from her travels is evident in her large-scale landscapes of coasts, mountains and deserts, from the Pacific and New England coasts to the Hawaiian and Canary Islands, to the American Southwest desert.
Her close observations of the natural world are revealed in her numinous floral paintings and abstract work. Perhaps because of this, she is often described as the Georgia O’Keeffe of her generation.
My work is sacred play, a spiritual discipline and an improvisational conversation with watercolor’s flowing nature, one that can be guided but demands respect for unpredictability. The act of painting has been deeply healing. The technical challenges of the medium excite me and enrich my interior processes.
Color is an essential nutrient for me. Curiosity, imagination, technical skills, political, emotional and spiritual interests find expression, intersection and amplification in my work. Painting is where I connect with my truest, most wild self. It is where my vision and joy can roam free without judgment or self-censorship.
Among the influences that have seeped into my paintings through the years are Systems Energetics, psychology, music, sustainability, neurophysiology, and what Jung called the Collective Unconscious. Traditional Chinese medicine, ideograms and the I Ching’s metaphorical language provide portals to my deep dives.
I hope my enthusiasm comes across in my paintings and that they speak to you in some way. Art is an intimate exchange, and the viewer is as essential as the artist.
Steele’s work has been in over 80 solo exhibits in galleries and museums in the U.S. and Europe. Her paintings have been in over 100 juried and invitational including the currently touring Speaking Volumes / Transforming Hate, and scores of group shows.
A monograph of Steele's work (essay by curator Terry Kohn) was published in 1994. A second book, Blueprints for Paradise, was published in conjunction with an eighty-piece retrospective at The Berman Museum in 2005 (curators Lisa Tremper Hanover and Susan Shifrin.)
Her work is in over 200 private and public collections including Blue Cross of Philadelphia, La Salle University, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and Kiepenheuer-Institut in Freiburg, Germany. She's received numerous grants and awards including the Leeway Foundation Window of Opportunity Grant, and has lectured and done residencies at Bryn Mawr College, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and The Michener Museum among others.