I make prints in order to connect with a broad audience in a fashion that is mediated and personal. The privilege of the multiple allows work to be seen by viewers in a variety of spaces and circumstances simultaneously, but the evidence of creation bridges the perceived distance between artist and audience. The attention to detail, the respect for craft, the collaborative and interactive nature of the medium attracts people to my work who would not typically engage with contemporary art. It also doesn’t hurt that I have made a lot of work filled with dinosaurs! Subject matter that is at once fantastic and nostalgic is used like a chum bucket to lure eyes to my work.  In this way I see myself as an evangelist for art, a fisher of men, earnestly trying to pull individuals back into the gallery, and to bring artists back in contact with their audience. The democracy of my chosen medium means art can be an inclusive, affordable component of anyone’s life, not just the moneyed, fashionable few. Facilitating welcoming art experiences is an important component of my research.

I incorporate contemporary theory and practice with traditional printmaking techniques to create work that is at once linked with the present and the past. In this way, my creative work parallels my interest in evolution and natural history. The prints may be technically sound, but they are also conceptually challenging and aesthetically iconoclastic. Compositions and motifs often reference art historical precedents, but loud colors, and new fangled green techniques place me firmly in the contemporary milieu. Relief printing on alternative recycled substrates, lithography using more sustainable materials, digitally informed execution in a variety of media, and fibers-based site-responsive installation are but a few ways my work has moved out of the frame and off the wall. In the near future I plan to further limit my consumption through strategies like making paper from fabric and paper scraps left over from previous projects in an effort to address the environmental impact of a creative career. I will also investigate creating my own ink bodies using printable pigments derived from sustainable plant sources. In this way I can do my part to reduce my footprint while also connecting to the art practices of a bygone age.

Like many of the chances I take in my work these new technical directions will be undertaken deliberately after considerable research and experimentation. An element of risk is infused into every project I undertake to keep me on my toes technically and creatively. Shortcuts, or even self-sabotage, are employed while a work is in progress to stay present while making. However, each departure is founded in experience with the expectation of recovery and learning. I liken it to leaping for a hold on a cliff face while still being clipped into the line, rather than jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

My artwork is a testament to an abiding interest in the Big Picture: cultural, historical, political, and ecological. More to the point, my work addresses how humans are a part of a global community—residents, not lords of the manor—and should be good neighbors, to each other and all of nature. Years living in south Louisiana, being overrun and then rundown by the consequences of disregard for the environment and the less fortunate, have proven a lasting influence. In the past I have described respect for the natural world as stewardship, but in some ways this term props up the patriarchy my work challenges.  Traditional gender roles and notions of romance are self-consciously called into question through work that challenges chivalry, misogyny, and the archetypes of the frigid breadwinner and the happy housewife.  My interest in contemporary courtship has been addressed by a central query—“Has Romance Gone the Way of the Dinosaurs?”—a question asked sincerely, and answered with an emphatic “Nope”. Dinosaurs were worthy protagonists and dense symbols in my narratives that referenced the fossil fuels humans tirelessly rip, suck, and dig out of the planet like an abusive lover. Saurians like humans were once the dominant life forms on Earth, but—despite their huge size and numbers—they made relatively little lasting impact on the planet. The prehistoric cast was also appropriate as I questioned the archaic, primordial nature of many of our behaviors. I used these forbearers to comment on my own upbringing and current lifestyle. Recently, collaborations with LGBTQ and African American student organizations have allowed me to be a conduit for others’ voices as they challenge outdated narratives, prehistoric ideas destined for the tar pit of history. Antediluvian themes continue to provide powerful and flexible metaphors even as dinosaurs, in the form of fossils peeking through the geologic record, take on a peripheral role in future projects.

Recently, I have pulled back on the ironic throttle of my work; worried that satire has created a distance between the audience and myself. New pieces discover and channel compassion within the culture by exploring the deeply personal, our close relationships and families. This new direction includes the admittedly sentimental White Bread series which uses baking as a metaphor to illustrate how my family raised me with an average lifestyle but a peculiar worldview, the Adrift suite that examines the isolation and anxiety of my marriage in the contemporary cultural and ecological morass, and collaborative installations made from repurposed materials where my partner and I attempt to come to terms with bringing another consumer into our family and onto an already overcrowded planet.  New work features my child and discusses the outsized impact his tiny body is already having on the ecosphere. In this way I can create deeply personal pieces that exposes my humanity while ruthlessly acknowledging my complicity in our current ecological predicament. The sentiments anchoring this work may not be unique, but in the age of irony, sincerity may be the most effective way to unearth shared truths and promote understanding.  It may be naïveté, but in my experience the more we find we have in common, the harder it is to be awful to one another. In the end, while the subject matter is increasingly autobiographical it is employed to effectively share my restless optimism about our collective future.



Blake Sanders
Adjunct Instructor, Southeast Missouri State University
Co-founder and Manager, Orange Barrel Industries

Blake Sanders earned his BFA from University of Northern Iowa and an MFA from Tulane University. He has taught art and printmaking at universities, as well as workshops at colleges and community-based art organizations around the United States. Recent juried exhibitions include the 3rd Global Print 2017 in Douro, Portugal; neo:print prize 2016 in Bolton, UK; the 35th Bradley International Print and Drawing Exhibition; the 25th Parkside National Small Print Exhibition; and the 2017 Delta National Small Prints Exhibition. His work supports environmental mindfulness by illustrating the bond between people and the natural world.