Arts and Culture

Jara Lopez Sastre - An Artist Who Subverts Meaning to Timeless Motifs

Jara Lopez Sastre Painting
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Jara Lopez Sastre - An Artist Who Subverts Meaning to Timeless Motifs

Nature, sea monsters, a discourse on femininity and its historical ties to domesticity and the intimate…

New York-based artist Jara Lopez Sastre explores current forms of femininity through a look backwards at how it’s been represented metaphorically by appropriating symbols and iconography frequently used throughout western art history.

Jara’s practice spans both painting and sculpture. She trained in two pre-college programs in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design as well as Pratt College. Jara is now a full-time student at NYU where her work has expanded into sculpture which, in her experience, allowed her to understand the dimensionalities of her subjects and reconsider them as two dimensional pieces. 

"Underwater Forest" (2023). Gessoed panel.

Her artistic narrative comes from her curiosity with objects and the cultural connotations they’ve developed over time. Particularly the relation that motifs of fish and aquatic plant life have evolved to have with European aesthetics of domesticity. Jara plays with the symbolism that these life forms hold in society to develop her own dialogue about femininity in contrast to certain ways it’s been represented in art over time. She creates a new adaptation of those very same objects and forms. This can be seen in both of Jara’s mono-type tracings of fish up in the exhibit.

To Jara, context is key. Having grown up in the British educational system, Jara studied a slightly more traditional segment of Art History compared to her schooling in America which has centered more heavily around 19th and 20th century Modern Art and experimental art forms. Her art history education was important in establishing her ongoing conversation with history, notably Flemish still life paintings.

This contrast comes alive in her work as it represents certain symbols and objects customary to traditional European art but with a contemporary application. Alongside more traditional pieces, Jara enjoys reading more experimental work. She noted a Berlin-based group called Sternberg Press as a source of inspiration. 

"Ganoid" (2022). Monotype tracing.
"Cycloid" (2022). Monotype tracing.

As a showcased artist in Palo Gallery’s ‘Under 25’ exhibition Just Kids last December, Jara promotes the youthful and rebellious energy that surrounds this show's work and what it strives to give its fellow youth. She noted how much power her and others' work gains by being exhibited beside one another and that given the show’s premise as young 20s artists in New York City, it encapsulates a sub-community within our generation. She noted that that collective energy was alive amongst the crowd at the exhibit's opening. Further illustrated by a fellow Just Kids artist whose work is a couple pairs of underwear behaving as monsters secured to the wall. “Our bodies are seeking playfulness” says Jara who views the show as an escape into a realm of ridiculousness.

Jara preserves those notions of intimacy and play in her work both on and off the canvas. 

In her more recent body of work, she has started pushing the ideas of abstraction into her paintings. Abstraction is a helpful tool in her work as it not only estranges the subjects of her paintings by placing them in unconventional environments or abstracting these environments to the point of disorientation of their location/time/place. 

Abstraction allows her to subvert the original meaning of these symbols. Part of this abstraction is also achieved by working through a mixture of memory and using her own archive of images.

The use of unorthodox color schemes make no (traditionally speaking) sense and therefore they don’t help to ground the image into a space and time. Colors that don’t have a home become a way to estrange these objects. By pushing color and looseness of figuration into this abstraction the image becomes unstable, ungrounded and hence nomadic. There are details in these images yet their surroundings are always transient, shifting and moving. Paintings that don’t have a place.

Her most recent paintings are in a constant push and pull between intimacy, voyeurism, the known and the unknown.


Connect with Jara on: Instagram

"Bud" (2023). Charcoal on drawing paper.