Sarah McEneaney, Locker Plant, 2009

Sarah McEneaney

Sarah McEneaney is a Philadelphia-based painter who, for almost thirty years, has used the venerable medium of egg tempera to make paintings which record her daily activities and surroundings. McEneaney warps perspective to suit her compositions and portrays her human subjects (most often herself) with an endearing awkwardness. Modest in size, diaristic, and brilliantly colorful, her paintings record the artist’s life—studio work, chores, baths, walks, naps, etc.—with zero pretension, a minimum of fuss, and a great deal of humor. Pets appear frequently, acting at once as friends, familiars, and, with the cast slowly changing, as markers of passing time.

Casual or informal in appearance, McEneaney’s paintings are in truth carefully thought out beforehand—egg tempera is a medium which allows for jewel-like colors but little revision once the paint is applied. The artist likes to enlarge the dimensions of the spaces she depicts—her studio, a bedroom, the Locker Plant gallery—making room for great planes of resplendent color. Nested within these planes, accompanied by a dog or two, maybe a cat, McEneaney portrays herself calmly at work, at rest, at play. She seems to float serenely within radiant fields of color, a little like Henri Rousseau levitating over the chimney pots of Paris.

Sarah McEneaney has exhibited widely since the early 1980s. A survey of her work was held at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 2004. She is represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York.