Since 2014, the City of Navasota and the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley (ACBV) have provided artists an opportunity to focus solely on their art as participants in the Navasota Artists in Residence (AIR) Program. Current artist, SanAntonio native Sarah Gomez, leaves Navasota Aug. 14 but credits the residency with contributing to her personal and professional growth and exposure to the business tools necessary for success.
From nature to nurture
Sarah graduated from the University of Texas-Austin in 2021 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art but comes from a line of creative women. Her maternal grandmother had an eye for sewing and clothing design and her mother writes. Admittedly shy, Sarah found drawing “playful, easy and relaxing” as a youngster but her focus began in earnest during middle school.
She said, “It helped people look at me in a way where I felt more than like just a tool for the workforce to use in the future. It gave me a sense of autonomy.”
Another influence is Sarah’s hometown of San Antonio, a major arts and culture destination place.
She said, “I’ve been toAustin, Dallas, New York and L.A. and I think the most artistic place that I’ve been to in Texas that replicates the art scene of New York and L.A. would be SanAntonio.”
Referring to First Friday, San Antonio’s longest running monthly art event near the Blue Star Art Complex, Sarah said, “It’s fantastic and develops the idea that we can get together - artists of all kinds, at all stages of life and create community and family through our work.”
Ties that bind
While some use journaling to express their feelings, Sarah uses oil paint and canvas. Her opening exhibition in June, Pink Blanket, depicted sentimental mementos of home, capturing the essence and depth of her homesickness and expressing the grief which often accompanies transitioning from one life stage to another.
Sarah utilizes a wide range of colors, soft and muted but with pops of yellow, and even a few comforting cats! Her extensive use of purple, a color equated with royalty, elevates something as mundane as backpack.
A Pink Blanket show stopper was the oil painting of her parents from a 20-year old photo.
She said, “Every time I looked at that photo – it’s so crazy how I can see myself! Little pieces taken from these two people created me. If I closed one eye, I could see my dad. If I closed the other eye, I could see my mom. That’s what I wanted to capture - that generational growth. That painting is in their home, where they come from, and they were able to give me the support of that home to be able to go off and create my own. It’s kind of like an homage, and a thank you.”
Other side of the canvas
The timing of Sarah’s arrival didn’t allow for art instruction in local classrooms but she made up for it with her children’s art table at the Navasota Freedom Festival.
Sarah said, “It was refreshing to see these kids not have any restrictions, to not hold back on what they were creating. I loved that!”
The ACBV introduced her to the media marketing side with interviews on KBTX and WTAW, a new but necessary tool for marketing her art.
She said, “Those interviews were great. I really loved that people wanted to know what I make and exactly how very important the arts are here compared to other places I’ve been.”
Sarah admits arriving with the “naïve” view that she could do it all and rely on social media for promotion. Residency takehomes include that an exhibition is the result of the “amazing” collaboration of many people behind the scenes, and that there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction with the public.
From comfort zone to conqueror
Sarah’s residency has fueled personal growth as well as professional.
She said, “It has really shown me the importance of collaboration and being able to ask people what they think, why they think and not be afraid to tell them how you think, and kind of mix them together.”
Examiner photo by Connie Clements In “Seven,” Navasota artist in residence Sarah Gomez navigates grief by “finding solace in little pockets of serenity, like the embrace of a beloved pet or the softness of a cherished sweater.”
She continued, “I’ve always been shy or standoffish toward people who have a different way of seeing things or viewing the world. When I graduated college, I realized maybe I should get to know the other side of things and how there’s more than one way to approach something but I never really went out of my comfort zone to do that. Now that I’m here, I’ve went way past that point of trying to stay in my own little circle! I feel like I can pretty much conquer a lot more than I would have been able to before.”
As for her work, Sarah said, “This feeling of collaboration has really helped me grow with how I produce work, how I’m able to use paint and approach paintings in a different way and see certain situation in ways that I haven’t seen before.”
She credits the residency with helping her come to terms with the grief she experienced leaving home.
She said, “Yes, I miss home. When you process the grief it renews that hope that ‘I can move on now.’”
While Sarah returns home to Dallas some of her work will head to San Jose, CA for a group show at the MACLA Chicano/ Latino Contemporary Art Space Sept. 1-Nov. 19.
Sharing parting thoughts about her residency experience, the 24-year-old said, “It genuinely exceeded my expectations. I did not expect this massive gallery space or this beautiful house or people to be so extremely welcoming. This is exactly what I was hoping to get when I was 40, way later in my career!”
She continued, “I really loved being here…all these beautiful houses and seeing how close-knit this community is. I’m definitely going to miss it when I go back to the city, and I’ll miss the support people have shown me.”