Sarah DUETH b.1974

If eyes are the windows to the soul, artist Sarah Dueth is one of our more unsettling glassblowers. In her voluminous “Girls” series, Dueth paints children whose bodies melt outward from glazed, haunted, world-weary eyes. Her elegant, eerie paintings—nearly 50 of them in total—are equal parts Gustav Klimt and Tim Burton, full of stark, imposing figures anchored by spectral glares. Their faces are raw glimpses into the unease of childhood, the discomfort of growing pains and the embarrassing memories that shape us even as adults. One painting is appropriately called “Strange Little Girls.” Daunting in scale and scope, her large body of work is an enormous spit in the face to the idea that nostalgia is a comforting, safe, friendly place. “It’s no secret that the Girl series isn’t a happy, jolly series,” says Dueth. “Everybody goes through something in life. I’ve just taken that negative energy and turned it into something positive.”

Her Rutherford, New Jersey, however, cuts a warmer, more unimposing suburban figure, complete with plates of cookies, Christmas cards and a hyperkinetic terrier obsessed with the backyard’s baby opossums. But a short walk upstairs into her under-insulated, paint-spattered attic reveals stacks and stacks of these girls in masks, girls holding toys, girls ill-fit in frilly dresses. Her studio is hot in the summer, cold in the winter and “on winter days it’s almost unbearable,” she says, adding, “I have to paint in snow boots.” But paint she does, as Dueth treats creating art like a drug, like a compulsion, like her unquestioned destiny.

By Christopher R. Weingarten · January 25, 2011 · Art News, Behind the Canvas, Spotlight