In the Magazine: Sarah Cain
I met the artist Sarah Cain in her studio in Los Angeles where she’s completing work for upcoming museum shows—at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and at the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh—plus a solo show at Honor Fraser gallery in LA. We had a rambling conversation about what inspires her work, how she manages her career and what it’s like to be a woman in the art world, all the while nibbling on fresh raspberries and dark chocolate with sea salt. It was just as incredible as it sounds.
Ann Friedman: You’re a businesswoman.
Sarah Cain: I didn’t understand that at all in the beginning. I consciously was very much against capitalism and commercialism and making money. There was just a shift that happened at a certain age where I was like, oh my god, I can’t die poor and homeless.
Was the work you were making affected by that shift in thinking too?
I would never have made canvases like those [gestures to a large canvas on the wall]. That, to me, is just the worst size. It’s what a collector wants. But if I can make it and still be super excited by it, that’s just great. I like to work against challenges.
In the earliest years of your career, how did you get by?
I did weird jobs. For a time I worked at an organic farm two days a week just for trade in produce. I had a really amazing older couple that let me live in their schoolhouse rent-free. It was really living on the edge. My ex got this squat in Brooklyn and I remember we took a mattress out of the dumpster, and he was like, this is gonna be funny and romantic in ten years. But it isn’t. It’s so gross to me still!
Are you still proud of the work you made during that time?
It’s awesome work, just early work. It’s definitely the foundation of what I’m doing currently, but the work is so much better now. The more you fine-tune your vocabulary, the better it turns out. Also, it’s not documented that well, either. It’s pre-digital camera, from the end of the ’90s. I was 21 to 24. Recently I did a show in London where they took over a brutalist car park. I got 7,000 euros to go there and do that, which is so different. And I stayed in a fancy hotel, and had support. A lot of my artist friends are still working day jobs, and it’s a bummer because they deserve more. It’s fucked up—every five or ten years, I see more people get edited out.
Read the full interview in the May issue. Subscribe and save more than half off the newsstand price!