Sara Gallagher is passionate about breaking the taboos that surround mental health in the United States. She harnesses her experience of working with houseless youth and people with disabilities to bring about an empathetic lens into the complex experience of what it is to be human. Through her hyperrealistic graphite and mixed media works, Sara provokes intimate dialogues around our private emotional experiences. Shaped in collaboration, she engages with her models personally by allowing a vulnerable, authentic discussion to set the direction of each piece. Detailed, emotive imagery and subtle surreal qualities provide a brave and beautiful space for our challenging emotions to exist. This intimate exchange invites us all to experience powerful solidarity and understanding of some of our most personal thoughts and feelings.
Sara’s work has been shown in galleries and museums across the globe, and is included in public and private collections internationally and even on the moon, most notably The Bennett Collection of Women Realists and the Lunar Codex. She has been awarded recognition in numerous competitions, including ModPortrait, the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and more. Sara is represented by 33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago, IL, and CK Contemporary in San Francisco, CA, and lives and works out of her small studio in a redwood grove in the North Bay Mountains of the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.
When was the first time you felt like you were an artist?
My identity has always been that of an artist, ever since I was a child. That said, my confidence in owning that identity has ebbed and flowed throughout my entire life. It wasn’t until my work started gaining broader recognition in 2020 that I began to embrace my artistic practice - and identity - as a professional one.
What would you say is the underlying thread that connects your work?
Emotional intimacy throughout every one of my pieces. The process of building the concept with my participants is a deeply vulnerable and intimate experience. The concepts themselves explore our inner emotional worlds and the complexities around them. The finished artworks serve as an invitation for viewers to contemplate their own internal experiences, creating ongoing opportunities for deepening emotional intimacy.
What is the most satisfying part of your practice?
There are so many satisfying parts!! I truly love the entire process from start to finish, each element holds its own unique significance and satisfaction in completing it. Though, if I had to choose just one part, it would be when I drop off my piece to my framer. I view him as the one to truly “finish” the work, so it signifies that my job is done. There is always a wave of deep relief and satisfaction in that moment.
Tell us about a turning point in your artistic journey and/or career.
The most obvious turning point for me was when I began working with the hyperrealism artist, Dirk Dzimirsky, in 2019. Dirk mentored me for a year, which not only greatly influenced the artistic medium and practice that I now work in, but also offered me professional guidance regarding the art world in general. Working with a professional in the field granted me a new perspective, and in turn confidence, that my ambition to become an artist full-time is something that could be achieved.
If you could show your work anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Having grown up in the Bay Area, the SF MOMA has served as an inspirational hub for me throughout my whole life. If I were ever to show my work there, it would likely be one of the most surreal moments of my life. One may dream!