Exploring Consciousness and Materiality: Conversation with Sara Ludy

DANAE
DANAE.IO
Published in
7 min readNov 10, 2022

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Untitled, Sara Ludy. Courtesy of the artist

Nebulous and sublime, Sara Ludy’s creations embody a journey through the calmly supercharged mind of a plural artist. Across her multidisciplinary practice, the American artist unveils the mystery around the matter. Her research results in hybrid forms emerging from the confluence of nature, being, and simulation; questioning our relationship to immateriality and consciousness. Deeply inspired by the earth Ludy is currently based in Northern New Mexico where she observes the local fauna and flora like a muse. During our conversation, we discussed the artist’s relation to social networks, her traditional painting and music background, VR, quantum theory and the secret of happiness.

This month our magazine is about the artist using and working with social networks. Can you tell us more about your creating and sharing process? How do you use Instagram to play with your environment and your work? It’s fascinating to see how the landscapes you photograph come together in your work.

I use IG in a very casual way, mostly just posting everyday moments I’ve enjoyed and things I’m working on. It’s also become a way for me to reflect on the unconscious choices I’ve made, certain ideas and themes start appearing over time. My phone is both a toolkit and an extension of my studio. I used to tape images to the wall to get them out of the computer, and now I send images to my phone, it provides a new way of reflecting on my work.

It’s not the same to have images in your studio for yourself and to share them with an audience, what are your expectations from unveiling that part of the process?

I don’t expect anything really, it’s just me posting genuine moments. I’m happy when my posts resonate with others, but it’s mostly for me, kind of like a diary, that happens to be public. I also have 2 other accounts, one for my closest friends and family, and one where I used to post inspiration, but haven’t in 4 years. Soon, I will make one for our dog Finn.

Can you tell us more about your traditional painting background? I can really see it through your digital paintings, before I couldn’t believe painting could be digital and when I discovered digital painters like yourself I knew it was the future of painting. Could you tell us more about your practice and maybe about painters you look up to in art history?

My love of painting started when I was 2 or 3 from watching the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. I was fascinated by his transparent process, and I would daydream about how I would make paintings, it became an obsession. When I was 11, I made my first oil painting; an ocean scene with some birds flying in the sky. I painted nearly every day for many years after and received a scholarship to SAIC for painting. Growing up in a small rural town, Bluemont, VA., I had limited knowledge of contemporary art. During my first semester in college, I was enrolled in a 4D class and learned that artists were making work using sound and video cameras. I discovered John Cage and Sadie Benning and was instantly mind blown, everything sort of cracked open for me. Although I still took a few painting classes, I moved forward in the sound, video, and art & technology departments; and developed an interdisciplinary practice.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve mostly focused on using digital mediums in my work, but have always approached my work as a painter. I’ve been working on digital paintings for the last few years, and they’ve become the most rewarding works in terms of really getting into the nuance of digital materiality and its language. I have so many favourite painters throughout history and now, William Turner, Pierre Bonnard, Agnes Pelton and everyone in the Transcendental Painting Group, Hilma af Klint, Georgia O’Keeffe, Helen Frankenthaler, Agnes Martin, Charles Burchfield, Félix Vallotton, Laura Owens, Matthew Wong, Rezi van Lankveld, and on and on and on :) My favourite digital painters are Louisa Gagliardi, Petra Cortright, and Andrej Ujhazy. I just love painters that are very inventive and genuine.

Untitled, Sara Ludy. Courtesy of the artist

Also, I didn’t know you were a musician, I’d love to hear you talk about it because it’s amazing to have these two artistic practices

I’ve been making music longer than I’ve been making visual work! When I was 7, I was gifted a Yamaha PSR-6, a keyboard with 100 preset sounds. I was enamoured with the high C on the “Wave” preset, it was so uniquely different, kind of broken and “wrong” sounding, that it left quite an impression on me. It sounded mechanical, like an air conditioner, and it was the first time I remember thinking about the qualities of sound. I then went on to learn as many instruments as possible, played in bands, wrote albums, composed music for film, tv, commercials. I also had a collaboration with my friend Austin Meredith for about 10 years called Tremblexy, we released our final album “Magmatic” in 2011. Since then, I’ve composed music for a few things, but now I mostly focus on unstructured compositions and field recordings. I’m currently building a sound composition in VR that I will virtually perform this summer for the Experimental Sound Studio.

You also work with musicians, don’t you?

I do, I’ve Vj’d many sets and have made many music videos. Recently I made Under~Between for Dialect, and Atlantis for my oldest and dearest friend Kass Richards. Making music videos is a true labour of love and it’s a sacred process, you become so bonded and invested in the music that it becomes a friend, one that is guiding you through the visual making process for weeks on end until all of a sudden you’ve built a world for your friend to hang out in, to make sense in. The song inspires you to build them a home.

And except for your environment and landscapes, do you incorporate what you see on the net into your work or is it mostly about nature?

I’ve made many works using found internet images such as Low Prim and Desert Rose, and each uses images differently. Low Prim is a collection of found images that have been arranged in a particular way, whereas Desert Rose uses the same kind of images but they’ve been stretched and blurred to become the texture of the forms. Even though my work tends to be rooted in a space that feels very distant from culture — sometimes in a different realm entirely, culture ambiently filters through, as in the case of using found images. I’m not interested in making work that is topical or directly “speaking to the times”, but I like acknowledging that these things exist while I’m occupying the perimeter.

And what about your VR practice, do you work with unity or do you do it yourself? It’s a humongous amount of work and time to acquire skills like these.

I taught myself VR through endless hours of watching Youtube tutorials and yes it’s still a huge amount of work! I learned Unity and Vive when I made the music video Time We Have for Steve Hauschildt, and afterwards started building my VR Aviary, which has been an ongoing project for the last 4 ½ years. I’m now working with Oculus and Unreal, and I’m still learning and troubleshooting every day. My dream is to start a VR studio. I have so many visions and things I want to build, but not enough time, I need collaborators :)

Deep Pond, Sara Ludy. Courtesy of the artist

Why did you choose to move to New Mexico, for nature?

I’ve wanted to live in New Mexico since I was 15. For some reason, I can’t remember I have been in love with this place even though I only visited it for the first time 3 years ago. Even all my aol screen names were based on the desert. I’m sure I’ve had multiple past lives here, it feels like home in a way that nowhere else has. I love the plants and creatures of the high desert, it’s simultaneously barren and alive. In general, I’ve always appreciated harsh elements. I’m actually a winter person, I love cold weather and having wind freeze my face off. Here, I have to look out for scorpions in my shoes and stay away from sand storms. Those elements make you pay attention more, they activate your perception, bring you more in the present moment. It’s a gift to encounter these things.

Aside from nature, what else inspires you?

I have some hobbies, I enjoy reading, and usually spend winter months reading a lot, mostly philosophy and physics. Last year I read about 40 books, 6 of those were by Ervin Laszlo. He’s a philosopher and systems theorist and beautifully bridges quantum physics and spirituality. I started reading a lot of Buddhist philosophy as a teen and later existentialist philosophy when I was going through some challenging times. In my early 20s, I was having life-altering lucid dreams and they turned everything upside down for me. I wanted to understand these experiences more and somehow fell into quantum theory. I also have a remote viewing practice, which is accessing nonlocal information. I’m very much into normalizing psi abilities, we all have the ability to recognize our infinite nature and communicate and access information in this way, we’ve just lost touch with it. These things have always been at the root of how I see the world and a big inspiration to my work, how everything simultaneously exists as information, energy, and the representations we ascribe.

Perhaps this is the secret of happiness, a balance between connection and disconnection, materiality and spirituality

Untitled, Sara Ludy. Courtesy of the artist

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