by Sarah Lillegard
When I was in high school, I reread Ordinary People countless times. And while I can’t recall the allure that book once possessed, I can remember Conrad Jarrett’s therapist telling him, “The body doesn’t lie.” That sentence has lingered with me the past 15 years becoming a tendril throughout my work and a mantra imprinted onto my daily life. It reminds me to listen to the way my shoulders weigh down under moments of stress and how my hips ache from lack of movement.
The body is a vessel of evidence. It bears the marks of its burdens, its injuries, and its moments of elation. Growing up, I have strong memories of my father’s callused hands and how one of my grandfather’s fingernails always curved past its boundaries (the mark of a table saw accident). My father’s hands, like all hands, read like books spilling secrets of time spent. They offer the elation of connection and yet, are still unconscious of themselves. These marker of bodies became the root of a series of work titled “Bred From the Weather”.
Much like bodies, clothing bears the evidence of its owner. The threadbare elbow and the frayed hem reflect days spent in motion. From “Bred From the Weather” (literally recycling one jacket into the next) arose “Second Skin”, a series expanding jackets into almost unwearable forms. The jacket is such a familiar shape. It’s easy to recognize how our bodies fit into them. They are the “once were’s” of someone’s shoulder, arms and back— a shadow of the wearer.
Those shadows are now elongating and I am realizing that the form don’t have to be tethered to a body. Can I create the impression of weight, of shoulders sinking? Can I show the dip of fatigue? I keep looking to yokes and how that form continues to appear in my studio. It’s a shape both animal and human; we both bear burdens across the backs of our necks. It’s a poetic line. It’s a painful line. It reads like a struggle.
So now as I am on the cusp of finishing work for an upcoming show (“Shoulder Lines Sinking”), I am seeing that past explorations aren’t that far away from the present. I am consumed by the way our bodies tell tales we can barely contain.
Sarah Lillegard is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Reno, Nevada. She received her BA from Walla Walla University and is currently an MFA candidate at Sierra Nevada College. Lillegard has participated in artist residencies in Utah, Nevada and Michigan. In 2015, she received the Nevada Arts Council Artist Fellowship and was recently included in Tilting the Basin at the Nevada Museum of Art. Her work is informed by the Great Basin and invested in how we perceive places. You can see her various projects here, here and here.