Sophie Feuer: Curled Beneath the Skin

Still from Sending to the Land, 2020, 16mm b&w film, 08m00s

By Alicia McDaniel, Exhibitions Fellow

Root Division Studio Artist Sophie Feuer’s Sending to the Land is an intimate memoir of her late grandmother Ilse. Images of her day-to-day life are tenderly juxtaposed with retellings of her childhood in a war-ridden Germany. Feuer’s haunting paintings also depict a vulnerability, power, and seek to reveal what is hidden beneath the surface.

Read more about Feur’s work in our interview below.

AM: Your film devices, image rendering, and color choices evoke subtle feelings of the horror genre. Does horror play into your films or paintings?

SF: Piggybacking off of what I was saying, thinking about death early on and humanity I question what it means to be human across space and time. Thinking about humanity in the modern context and how that is steeped. How American culture is steeped in violence, consumerism, and this growing sense of detachment and I think that’s why I really love genre tropes of horror, sci-fi, and supernatural. I feel that we are re-adapting age old concepts of symbols and ways of storytelling in mass media and consumerism. These are very representative of modern culture. Monsters and aliens represent something that disturbs us about being human- they feel very inhuman but I believe that our fear is rooted in human-likeness. We are closely aligned with those uncanny, disturbing figures and fear confronting this reality. 

The weird thing about very vulgar horror films is that we are so disturbed by them and yet we know that another human made this film. Someone imagined and created them. It’s disturbing and yet isn’t as disturbing as some of the things that do go on in our world. The violence and vulgarity of horror wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t linked to something that is part of our culture- part of reality.

AM: Last year you were awarded the Flies Collective Film Production Grant for your short film Space Lady. You have made a significant impact with your documentary style, do you plan to continue working in this genre?

Fear of Fear, 2019, Oil on canvas, 4.6 x 3.5 ft.

SF: Yes, I am definitely planning on continuing to explore the documentary genre. The past succession of my projects make me realize that they all have built off of one another. Space Lady is in a way an extension of ideas that I was exploring in my other film Black Hole regarding sci-fi and the way that humans make meaning out of media and connect their lives to it.

AM: How has your work changed throughout your time at Root Division?

SF: My time at Root Division has really helped me push for a deeper understanding of my work and how it fits or interacts with other conversations. This is due to a lot of exposure to the other artists sharing the studios and overall Root Division community. You’re essentially rubbing shoulders with other artists so you’re always sharing ideas with each other. This really creates a space for your work to grow in a unique way versus if you were on your own. This really pushes your boundaries of the medium and the ideas you are working with. Our work is so amorphic and it’s great that many different people come in bringing new perspectives, ideas, and opportunities into the space. You are motivated to change and adapt in a healthy, nurturing way.

AM: Do you have any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

Woman by Water, 2019, Oil on canvas, 3.6 x 4 ft.

SF: I am currently finishing The Space Lady which will be done by the end of August, this month. Then I am relocating from San Francisco to Brooklyn, New York to pursue a couple new projects, specifically one documentary I have been developing with filmmaker Tyler Macri. This film will also be shot on 16mm in New Jersey and it’s going to be about connecting to the landscape and certain fears around the pollution there and amongst other things. It is in it’s beginning stages but we’re hopefully going to begin shooting this fall.

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