New Territory: Paintings of Sarah Trigg

Sarah Trigg’s paintings, made with both traditonal and digital media, explore the connection between geography and biology.

A directory of fast-food restaurants in the Detroit Metro Airport; a map of Sprint’s cell-phone service across the United States; the grid of Northwest Airlines’ flight patterns: all of these are organic systems that developed in response to need and efficiency, much like the systems within the human body. To painter Sarah Trigg, these urban patterns even look a little like cells, dendrites, and organs. Taking inspiration from secondhand surgery textbooks, airport layouts, and fuzzy aerial photos found on the Web, Trigg maps fictive terrains that are part landscape, part bodyscape. “The way I construct my image is always related to the body in some way,” she says. “I want it to have this feeling that you’re observing something in motion—processes going on. Our architecture is somewhat similar. Our movement and daily action mimic how a cell might function.”

Working loosely from her growing collection of found photos and illustrations, Trigg strives to capture “how one’s subconscious might contend with the original images…how they are filtering through our memory. The intent is not so much to be representational but to reflect how you would remember that photograph, or how your subconscious might regurgitate that image.” Her “Metastatic Explorer” series began with a map of early Native American tribe territories and languages from The National Atlas of the United States of America. On top of that she layered the routes of European explorers from the 1600s through the 1800s. “The idea was to get a sample, like a doctor would biopsy a tissue, of several systems that were developing in the United States around that time,” Trigg says. “I found it interesting that the explorer system seemed to develop with no regard to the forms of the Native American system—despite having to contend with the same geography. And eventually the explorer system caused the Native American system to change its normal functioning, much like cancer cells do to normal cells.”

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