What kind of art do you practice?
I like to do anything creative, and I like to bring creativity into anything I do. As of right now, I primarily paint portraits, embroider, and edit films.
What lead you to become an artist?
When I was younger I loved storytelling, but because of my learning disabilities reading and writing were not as accessible to me. I became drawn to visual art and movies because I could see and hear stories without having to struggle to read them. I didn’t feel the constant need to compare myself to my peers and where they were with reading or writing, I could relax and enjoy the movie knowing I had access to the information the same time everyone else did. Whenever I saw a movie I liked, I would watch it over and over with anyone who came to my house. In addition, I started drawing and painting and finally felt successful in an area at school. That encouraged me to keep creating and creating, and eventually making art just became a part of who I am.
How has art impacted your community?
Art is important in any community. Depending on what your definition of art is, we are constantly surrounded by it where ever we are. Art has the ability to communicate and illustrate what we see in our daily lives and make it digestible in a way reality often isn’t. Art influences culture, politics, and social norms.
I think one huge way art has impacted the queer community is representation and visibility. Art normalizes queerness in that when cis straight people start seeing queer characters and narratives on their tv screens and in magazines and in art galleries, it gives them a gateway into understanding us at arm's-length and that directly impacts our day to day lives and the risks we face. Obviously there is a long way to go in terms of queer liberation, but I do think that art has been a tool that queer people have been using to dismantle the white supremacist cis-heteronormative systems we live under. I think art not only gives queer people a way to communicate the complexities of who we are, but also a way to expose the violence and oppression against queer and trans folks all over and I think and hope that will start becoming more and more prevalent in art spaces as time goes on.
How do you engage community in your practice?
I create based on who surrounds me and what is happening around me. I want my work to reflect people in my life and people who are changing the world. I paint people I love and am inspired by from local activists to bell hooks and Laverne Cox.
What has been your greatest joy as an artist?
My greatest joy as an artist is seeing the impact of my work. Seeing the comfort that my paintings have brought to people who are mourning, when they see their loved one memorialized on canvas, or seeing the joy it brings to my friends to see themselves represented in a world that tries to erase them is extremely affirming and healing.
How do you spend your free time?When I’m not painting, editing film or working at Intermedia I watch a lot of tv and movies. I also spend quite a bit of time with my 85 year old Grandma, Vivian. She moved in with us in the summer of 2015 after my Grandpa passed away. She is where a lot of my creativity stems from.
“Art has the ability to communicate and illustrate what we see in our daily lives and make it digestible in a way reality often isn’t.”
- Sarah Maude-Griffin
What else inspires you?
Pain and empathy are what inspire me to create. I think the best art is created because of hurt and heavy emotions, and that art has the ability to communicate those emotions that are hard to talk about in a way nothing else can. As an artist, I feel a moral responsibility to communicate with others what we can’t say with just our words.
What is the biggest adversity you have faced in your artistic journey?
I’ve struggled with clinical depression and anxiety since I was around 12 years old. It’s a daily battle to get out of bed and do even the most mundane things, let alone to gather the motivation to create something meaningful, especially when some days, nothing I do feels like it matters. I am so privileged to have access to the help that I need to fight, and to have resources to create regardless.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
I first got involved at Intermedia in the fall of 2015 when I joined the Youth Leadership Council. Through the YLC I found out about other youth programs at Intermedia, like INDY Filmmaking for Social Change and Media Active. After spending a couple months in INDY I joined Media Active in early 2016. Before Media Active I wasn’t engaging in film at all in the way that I wanted to. Filmmaking can be so collaborative, but because I wasn’t in school at the time, I didn’t have peers to collaborate with. Media Active gave me that opportunity to collaborate. Intermedia, in a lot of ways, has given me a community to be a part of. When you’re my age and not in school or a part of an ‘institution’ it’s really easy to feel alone in your activism, artmaking, and general existence.
One of my most meaningful experiences at Intermedia Arts was coming into work in the days following the election. On November 9th, I came in for my regular Media Active meeting and it was so healing to come into the media lab and see my coworkers and friends, and to reflect and mourn with them. Later that same week, I had a Youth Leadership Council meeting, and we began planning our first Healing through Printmaking workshop. Had I not been a part of Intermedia, I would have spent those days alone feeling helpless.
Sarah Maude-Griffin is an emerging queer artist and activist currently living in Minneapolis Minnesota. She spends her time painting, filmmaking, photographing, embroidering, knitting, doodling and organizing. She loves cats and pugs.