Transferring as a new student to Indiana University this summer, I was ready to jump in and get involved with the Bloomington community. As an arts management major with a background in studio art, my first stop was the Indiana University Art Museum. Taking a look through all of the galleries I found myself clinging to a piece by Kay Sage in the Gallery of the Art of the Western World on the first floor.
This Surrealist oil painting titled “Lost Record” (1940) seemed tiny compared to the larger works that took over entire walls in the gallery. However, though small in size with dimensions of only 36 x 27 ¾ inches, one cannot help but be drawn in by the power of Sage’s eerie, dream-like landscape. A single dying tree is the only sign of life in an otherwise barren landscape with two ambiguous rock formations and one must ask “who is this artist?” Intrigued, I decided to do some more research on the artist:
Kay Sage never stayed in one place for too long; her constant displacement started at a young age due to her parents’ divorce and her aversion to a formal education. However, Sage found a temporary home and inspiration in Paris in 1938 where she joined other artists in the Surrealist movement. Andre Breton, the group’s leader, officially accepted her as a Surrealist artist soon after; Sage was one of only a few female artists who were formally designated as part of this artistic movement. Though Sage drew inspiration from her Surrealist counterparts such as Giorgio de Chirico and Yves Tanguy (whom later became her husband in 1940), “Sage’s mature vocabulary of architectural scaffolding set in barren landscapes infused with a disquiet melancholy is intensely personal and entirely her own” (Celia Gant Edict Of Women Artists, Vol. 2). Unlike her contemporaries, Sage utilized muted colors, architectural forms, and metaphysically directly linking her works with personal suffering of inner loneliness and disillusionment with society, many pieces foreshadowing her suicide in 1963.
Celia Gant Edict Of Women Artists, Vol. 2 (via Jenny McComas)