Sara Gothard

Older Work


paintings, watercolor, acrylic

Pre-2016 work in watercolor and acrylic

The Astronaut and the Seraph, 2015: watercolor and acrylic (10.5"x10.5") – Framed by Sputnik, a comet and the Crab Nebula, an intimidated astronaut encounters a vibrant celestial being.

Christina the Astonishing, 2015: colored pencil and acrylic (19"x24") – Medieval saint, Christina the Astonishing (c.1150-1224), lived in the Low Countries and was famous for her acts of extreme physical penance which, she believed, contributed to the relief of souls suffering in Purgatory.

Nature more careful, more powerful than any guardian, 2015: watercolor (11"x15") – frame motifs inspired by Puritan funerary imagery, the weeping beech inspired by many walks in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Domestic Deathshead, 2014: watercolor (3.5"x3.5") – Caput funeris domesticum makes a lovely pet. They are quiet, clever and sometimes affectionate, but keep a keen eye open if you let them out of their cage. They are skilled escape artists.

Feral Deathshead, 2014: watercolor (3"x5") – Caput funeris ferum is derived from domestic deathsheads whose ancestors escaped captivity. They make their homes in urban parks and find their meals among the human refuse of cities. They may be distinguished from domestic deathsheads by their more flamboyant coloring and shy behavior.

Nesting Deathshead, 2014: watercolor (3"x5") – Here is a rare glimpse of feral deathshead chicks still in the nest. Deathsheads are devoted parents and care for their young for many months until the hatchlings are ready to take wing.

Rio Grande Valley Idyll, 2014: watercolor (10"x14") - Irrigated chile and cotton fields surrounded by desert near Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

The Stone Lotus, 2014: watercolor (10"x14") – illustration for an (as yet) unpublished short story by the same name by Subodhana Wijeyeratne. Find some of his wonderful work at Labyrinth Inhabitant.

Sinus Olei Britannici, 2013: watercolor (10"x14") - The Gulf of Mexico envisioned millions of years after the BP oil spill, in some future Middle Age that no longer remembers the disaster.

Bog People, 2013: acrylic (11"x14") – In the Bronze and Iron Age, people in northern Europe ritualistically sacrificed community members and buried their bodies in peat bogs, which naturally preserved them. The religion which would have provided context to these burials has been lost, but its symbols have been preserved in various metalwork. I echo and reinterpret some of these symbols in the frame of this piece. The early spring flowers depicted actually grow in New England, but I imagine similar flora blooms in northern Europe as well. The bog mummies may seem ghoulish to us now, but they probably represented rejuvenation and and end to long, cold winters for the people who buried them.

Hellmouth, 2013: watercolor (9"x12") - Depicting hell as the mouth of a creature is an old motif in Western art. This is my version.

Vivaldi brothers' map of Cipangu which is really Barbuda, 2016; embroidery thread on linen (10"x12") – The Vivaldi brothers sailed from Genoa in 1291 into the Atlantic ocean looking for a route to the east, and were never heard from again. Here I imagine their explorers map if, like Columbus 200 years later, they had actually ended up in the Caribbean mistaking it for, in this case, Japan (known in medieval Europe as Cipangu).

WWTD, 2016; acrylic (5"x7") – Tiglath-Pileser III was an 8th-century BCE Assyrian king, noted for his refinement of the Assyrian civil, military and political systems, as well as for utterly smiting his foes. Sometimes we are faced with challenges and it is helpful to ask yourself, what would Tiglath-Pileser do??

Santa Muerte, 2016; colored pencil (6.5"x8.25") – The personification of death, Santa Muerte is a folk saint primarily venerated in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. She is associated with healing and protection.

Pied Piper of Wondaland, 2012: watercolor (5.5"x8.5") - I am a huge fan of Janelle Monae. Her creative workshop in Atlanta is known as Wondaland. She is versatile and virtuosic, a really dazzling singer, dancer and all around performer. She has crafted an entire sci-fi mythological narrative to accompany her albums Metropolis and Archandroid. She has created a minutely-considered future world and an android alter-ego. I get from her music a consistently humane and compassionate message about the absolute necessity of finding and expressing one's authentic self, both as a means to personal fulfillment and world betterment.

Swampsquatch in Saint Malo, 2012: watercolor (6"x9") - Starting with Filipino sailors who jumped ship from Spanish trade galleons, Filipino fishing villages developed in the swamps of south Louisiana beginning in the late 18th century. There are no reports of these transplanted Louisianans encountering unidentified, large bipedal primates...but there could have been.

Apocalypse, 2012: watercolor (12"x18") - Though a familiar theme in western art, cultures the world over have apocalyptic lore. I have blended script and images from Hindu, Muslim and Egyptian "end times" traditions as well as referenced the more modern western apocalyptic themes: nuclear and zombie holocausts.

Work will set you free!, 2016: colored pencil (16"x20") – Created for an open call entitled "Art and Activism," I drew heavily from early-20th-century propaganda posters to create this piece. I focused on issues related to income inequality and labor rights and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Hekate in a New Orleans Courtyard, 2011:
acrylic (14"x22"),

Modeled on the courtyard of an antebellum townhouse in New Orleans, I have rendered a palm tree, a citrus tree, marigolds, hibiscus and magnolias, among other plants. I placed the Titan Hekate in this courtyard, who is usually associated with magic and witchcraft, but is also the goddess of crossroads. The pathways radiating from the fountain are perhaps not the kind of crossroads that usually fall under her purview, but I imagine she would embrace the guardianship of such a life-abundant, hidden place. Zeus gave her portions of the earth, sky and water and the power to give to (or withhold from) humans anything she wished -- a lush courtyard in spring bloom seems an apt representation of the plenty she might endow.

The Hand of God, 2011:
watercolor (6"x9") - sold,

Iconographic rendering of FC Barca great, Lionel Messi, in his 2007 re-enactment of the original 1986 "Hand of God" goal scored by his cheeky (some may say cheating) predecessor, Diego Maradona, who looks on in the background. Maradona observed that he scored his goal "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."

St. Louis Greets Bienville on the Banks of the Mississippi, 2010: watercolor (6"x9")

Sir John Mandeville's Bestiary, 2010:
watercolor (7"x10"),

Playing with medieval unconcern and modern obsession with the difference between fact and fiction, I concocted this page for a bestiary never written about a fictitious animal described by a man who never existed. Sir John Mandeville, the nom de plume of an unknown author, did describe griffins in his immensely popular Travels (whence the pictured text from a public domain 1900 translation).

The Abduction of St. Francis, 2010:
watercolor (6"x9") – sold,

Inspired, if annoyed, by the those ill-advised triflers with history, “ancient alien” believers, I painted my own depiction of an historical visitation. I reasoned that if aliens visited earth in the Middle Ages they would have done well to abduct a truly superlative example of humanity. I could think of no better candidate than St. Francis of Assisi. I imagined what a rude interruption this would pose to the busy saint and so have pictured him still preaching to the birds as he is slowly carried off in the tractor beam of a flying saucer.

Pliny the Elder at Pompeii, 2010:
watercolor triptych (open 4"x4") - sold,

Pliny the Elder, was a late Roman natural philosopher, military officer and author of the compendious Naturalis Historia. As his nephew Pliny the Younger, also a well-known author, described in a letter (Book VI, Letter 16) to Tacitus, Pliny the Elder was also an eyewitness to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. In fact, Pliny the Elder lost his life saving evacuees from that disaster.

Pliny the Elder at Pompeii (closed)

St. Ignatius of Loyola, 2011:
watercolor (5"x8") - sold,

St. Ignatius of Loyola, a former solider, found his vocation while recovering from a battle wound, proceeded to live a life of asceticism and deep learning, and founded the Jesuit order. I used standard iconography for St. Ignatius including the pen and the book he his holding, in which is inscribed the abbreviation A.M.D.G for Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God). The somewhat psychadelic background is my invention but gestures toward visual themes sometimes found in medieval depictions of creation and last judgment.

St. James the Pilgrim, 2010:
acrylic on scallop shell (6.5"x6") - sold,

In around 800 AD, so the story goes, the remains of the apostle James were found at a site in Galicia, the northwestern region of Spain. This amazing discovery made the site (from then known as Santiago de Compostella) one of the foremost pilgrimage sites in medieval Europe. In fact, throughout the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostella ranked as the 3rd most popular pilgrimage site, only behind Jerusalem and Rome. The shrine at Santiago de Compostella remains, the pilgrimage route across northern Spain can still be traveled today, and one can still see pilgrims bearing the iconographic scallop shell, identified with the pilgrimage of Saint James. Saint James appears in two different incarnations in his iconography - one is the bellicose, sword-wielding Matamoros, and the second, the one I have depicted here, is of St. James as a pilgrim to his own shrine - scallop shell insignia, walking stick, boots and all.

New Orleans Neutral Ground as a Medieval Garden, 2009:
watercolor triptych (open 8.5"x5.5")

Depiction of a particularly verdant neutral ground (median to the rest of the country) on Esplanade Avenue, including local New Orleans flora and fauna.

New Orleans Neutral Ground as a Medieval Garden (closed)

The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex, (2009)
acrylic (12.5"x9.5") - sold

In 1820, the Nantucket whaleship Essex was struck and sunk by a sperm whale thousands of miles off the coast of Chile. Even with my sympathies firmly on the side of the whale, the fallout from this event tells a harrowing story involving men in small boats adrift in the Pacific for months, cannibalism, starvation and island castaways. Tremendously famous in the 19th century, this incident has rather disappeared off modern radar and I had never heard of it until reading "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathanial Philbrick. This work of nonfiction, which so vividly recreates this event and its context, would not leave me alone after I read it. So I found myself painting this picture depicting the moments before impact. The men were in the middle of hunting their quarry (hence showing them in their little whaleboats) when a sperm whale reportedly 85 feet long struck the main ship twice. The first strike may or may not have been accidental. The second was surely willful. And so human hunting created aggressive creatures out of once docile quarry. This was the first recorded episode involving a sperm whale ramming a ship, but it would not be the last. No small wonder Melville would use this event in crafting his own story of man v. nature, albeit making a villain of the whale. I prefer to see a different villain in the piece.

St. John the Evangelist, 2010: watercolor pocket icon on board (2"x2.5") - sold

Foliate Mask, 2010: acrylic on plaster mask (4"x8") - sold, Auction item for Save Our Cemeteries 2010 All Saints' Soiree

Dragon Illumination Mask, 2010: acrylic on plaster mask (8"x8") - sold, Auction item for Save Our Cemeteries 2010 All Saints' Soiree