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  Featured Artist
 

Sage Hagan in his Bernalillo art studio Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

Innocent Blood, mixed media, by Sage Hagan

Truth, 48”x68”, mixed media, by Sage Hagan

Sage Hagan: a moment of clarity

—Oli Robbins

Art has existed for as long as we have. It is a fundamental form of expression and communication; our predecessors created visual representations long before they developed written language and agriculture. And while artistic technique and methodology continues to grow and shift through the centuries, the drive to unveil ones own primal abilities remains. In the vivid paintings of Sage Hagan, this connection to human instinct and history is achieved. For Sage, truthful expression is paramount, and specific technique less critical. Sage has no formal training and has been devoting himself to painting for just three years, yet his works are wildly powerful statements about human history, archetypes, and his own personal symbology.

Sage, who now resides in Bernalillo and grew up in Corrales, spent many years in Los Angeles, attending culinary school, writing, and eventually cooking in successful restaurants. When he embraced sobriety, at the age of 21, he found himself turning to writing more and more. He said, “It was always something I went to, especially poetry, to help me come to grips with my own sobriety and how I looked at the world.” Later, Sage’s other talent, cooking, landed him a position at a Michelin-rated restaurant in Paris. And he loved it. “Being around fire and big knives and pressure—it was a lot of fun.” While living in Paris, Sage went to several wonderful art shows and museums, and thought to himself, “I could do this.” Once back in L.A., the restaurant world wore on him, as did the energy of L.A. He recognized a pattern: work hard, burn out, need break. He also realized that it may be time for a change. So, he left a beautiful but somehow-not-totally fulfilling life in California and moved back home to New Mexico.

A vision quest helped Sage accept the next chapter in his life, which included being in New Mexico and painting. Along with less than a dozen other people, Sage went without food for three days, and bared his soul. “In that vast, expansive openness, you can find out some pretty cool things about yourself.” Sage is among several great artists who have turned to such an experience for guidance and inspiration; some of the surrealists—particularly Joan Miro—went on (personal and unorganized) hunger strikes in an attempt to open up their minds to new information.

Sage is now quite certain that he would not have cultivated his identity as a committed and virtuous painter had he not moved back. Coupled with sobriety, painting offers Sage certainty. Since giving up drinking, he has exercised his inherent talents and surrendered to his passions. Says Sage, “It’s a solitary life, and I’m very comfortable with that. It’s sobriety, it’s production. I sacrificed a lot to have that freedom so I can dedicate eight hours a day to art.” And produce he does. He has already almost doubled his goal of four paintings per month in 2014.

Sage’s paintings—linear, bold statements about human strength, leadership, artifice, and struggle—demand to be looked at. Sage is careful never to copy sacred or traditional Native American patterns or imagery, but he builds upon the Native American aesthetic. Some of his pieces evoke earlier human experiences: “the freedom, open space... and the history, sorrow, and beauty of living off the land, and the natural cycle.” And several works feature chiefs who represent leaders, or in his words, “someone who has experienced trials and tribulations but has the knowledge to teach.”

These large-scale works are typically a mixed media of spray paint and acrylic. Incorporating spray paint is important to Sage, since it was graffiti (and the skateboarding subculture) that kept him engaged in art through his teenage years. And the raw, loud, untamed energy of graffiti is present in his paintings. For Sage, the art-making process itself (when he allows images, thoughts, feelings and symbols to flow freely from himself to the canvas) is as meaningful as the finished product. While he sometimes makes preparatory sketches, he feels most comfortable when the planning is over, and it’s just him, the paint, and the surface. “As soon as I get paint to the canvas, I’ve already made that piece. I’m a part of it.” “For me,” says Sage, “it’s become this place of serenity (creating). The solitude that I experience in being sober and not wasting my time on the randomness life has to offer.” He continues, “I have times in the studio when there’s a moment of clarity, and I get chills—like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

This month, on April 12, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., Sage is presenting his works in a one-man public show at the artist’s home—located directly behind the back parking lot of the Range Cafe in Bernalillo.. You can preview Sage’s work by visiting his website: www.sagehagangallery.com.

 
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