Mary Sauer, "Remnants"

Utah painter Mary Sauer works in the timeless genre of figurative portraiture, capturing the sensual beauty of a woman’s skin tone or the curious expression on a child’s face. Mary Sauer’s soft-edged realism and elusive lighting brings her figures to life, a trait that also connects her style to that of inspirational French naturalists. When it comes to her technique, Sauer draws from various art historical time periods particularly 19th century academic painters. But what sets her work apart from traditional genres are the deeper conceptual ideas and modern influences that fuel her imagery, as well as Sauer’s tendency to expose the painting process through open-ended shapes and loose lines.

“The subject matter is really interesting to me and is what inspires me to start a painting,” explains the artist. “But what inspires the painting to be finished is the actual physical qualities of paint itself and then letting that take over. By being a little less specific with paint, people can look at a piece and it’s almost like they remember themselves in that place. It’s not just about my memories and my nostalgia, but what it makes the viewer remember as well.”

This feeling of nostalgia takes the forefront in Sauer’s latest body of work for her solo exhibition titled, Remnants. Mary Sauer’s paintings reveal disappearing moments and memories, while her show as a whole contemplates the ephemerality of both time and beauty. As we view ghostly interiors, familiar storefronts, enchanting women and endearing children, we are stuck with feelings of familiarity and eerie remembrance. Many of Sauer’s storefront paintings are local, while her abandoned interior subjects reference a visit to Bodie State Historic Park in California. Sauer took photographs of this preserved ghost town from the gold mining era to later reference for her paintings.

Mary Sauer’s figurative works are bittersweet as many of her new pieces illustrate moments from motherhood. Sauer has a three-year-old daughter and recently gave birth to a second little girl. “I have always loved paintings of children,” says Sauer, who is endeared to juvenile portraits by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and Diego Velazquez. “But I am especially informed by that subject matter now that I’m a mom.” Mary Sauer translates the fleeting stages of her daughter’s childhood into her work, preserving passing memories with comfort and joy.

Mary Sauer’s female figures are arguably her most well known subjects and will also appear in this exhibition. In line with the show’s theme, these paintings reference earlier eras through vintage clothing or backdrops. Her feminine imagery is often inspired by fashion photographers - the way they compose temporary images of beauty through light, posture and clothing. This modern influence further contemporizes Sauer’s process and enhances the conceptual facet of her work, as it refers to our society’s psychological views of perfection.


Mary Sauer’s Remnants will be a dynamic and engaging exhibition that allows the viewer to contemplate the passage of time and ephemerality of beauty through many different lenses. Please join us for an Artist Reception on Friday, July 27th from 6-9pm.


-Kelly Skeen