Sarah Cain in her studio.
Photo: Jeff Mclane. Courtesy of the artist

The 5-Minute Journal: Frieze Projects Artist Sarah Cain Opens Her Diary for Galerie

Over the course of one week, Cain will answer three questions each day and share them with Galerie readers

In celebration of the Aspen Art Museum turning 40 this year, CEO and director Heidi Zuckerman kicked off a project in January on the pages of Galerie. She began by sharing her journal for one week with our readers. This month, she passes the torch to artist Sarah Cain, one of the featured artists in Frieze Projects Los Angeles, and asks Cain to share her diary for a week.

Cain, who is known for her site-specific paintings, will create a floor-to-ceiling painting and stained-glass installation in a building that looks like a New York brownstone (Frieze Projects are happening in Paramount Studios’ New York back lot) when the fair kicks off on February 14. Cain will also have a concurrent solo show at Honor Fraser.

For this journal, Zuckerman is selecting artists who she’s worked with in the past, many of whom she’s interviewed. You can read an excerpt of a conversation that Zuckerman had with Cain here, which has been collected, along with other conversations with artists, in her book Conversations with Artists Vol. II, which is being released in October 2019 by Aspen Art Press.

Now I’m Going to Tell You Everything at ICA LA, 2017–18. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

“A few months ago, I read an article about the hashtag #blessed. It was, unsurprisingly, cynical,” Zuckerman told us recently. “At this point in my life, I am very committed to the both/and (as opposed to the either/or) and know, confidently, that gratitude, art, and artists are key factors in that approach. Thus, it makes sense for me to not only share my practice, but invite artists who are important to me to participate as well. I have learned a lot from artists, writers, philosophers, and social scientists who have been willing to, honestly and authentically, share their experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Inspired to do the same, I hope the audience of these gratitude journals will benefit in a comparable manner. Thank you for reading along!”

We hope you enjoy this next installment of the Gratitude Journal. —Galerie editors

DAY 5: Sarah Cain’s 5-Minute Journal for Thursday, February 7, 2019

A profile of Cain in The New York Times Style Magazine. Photo: The New York Times Style Magazine

What was the most surprising thing about your day?

I was nicely surprised when an article published online today at The New York Times Style Magazine and was extra content when my cat Tommy made the cut, making this his most high-profile debut to date. It’s always a little anxiety-inducing when you know something is going to be published, but you don’t know when or the exact copy or even the photo of you that will be used. I was truly happy with both Alice Newell-Hanson’s writing and Philip Cheung’s photos. The whole experience was lovely, so I wasn’t too worried, but there is a vulnerability to being out in the world, which can be a little nerve wrecking at times. It always makes me think about an early conversation I had with my good friend George Herms. He was talking to me about the artists dilemma, how we create our work from spinning inward and searching but are also expected to spin outward and be out in the world talking, and with that opposite pull, it can create a schizophrenic-like state. It’s a relief when you hand over the words to someone else and they capture you in a truthful way.

What made you feel loved today?

I had a nice and honest talk with my mom today about growing up.

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?

I tried to go mail Bernadette Mayer a return letter, but instead I drove the wrong direction to my favorite lunch spot. I didn’t realize where I was going until I arrived as I had been so caught up in thoughts planning for Frieze. Hopefully, tomorrow I will get to the post office and remember to eat lunch on time.

DAY 4: Sarah Cain’s 5-Minute Journal for Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cain, It’s Your Day!, 2013 Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain and Galerie Lelong

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
I woke up to see a balloon had landed in my garden. I really love when balloons just land somewhere; it makes me surprisingly happy. The last time one did that in front of my studio it ended up becoming a painting (It’s Your Day, 2013). This one also reminded me of older landscape paintings when they had that trick of dropping in something tiny and red into the lush green.

What made you feel loved today?
A bright neon green envelope was waiting in my mailbox today from my dear friend, the legendary poet Bernadette Mayer. She’s such a great writer that receiving mail from her is always a total treat, and writing her back is surprisingly intimidating. I always make a special moment of reading her letters, sitting myself down to read them like I’m about to read a poem for the first time.

The Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library. Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I mistakenly went to the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library for some tea. It’s my favorite place to go and think. However, I forgot they have a massive renovation happening. It’s the third time I’ve gone forgetting it’s going to be super unrelaxing. Plus, all the rains swept a lot of the mud from the construction into the pond. I didn’t even see one koi fish—I’m hoping they survive.

DAY 3: Sarah Cain’s 5-Minute Journal for Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Snowcapped mountains as seen from Cain’s studio. Photo: Sarah Cain

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
While I was out on my studio balcony today working on a spray painting, I glanced over at the mountains and noticed that they were snowcapped. A friend just told me how those mountains used to always get snow. Nowadays it’s usually only the one peak further out. I’d never seen snow on the ones closest to my studio before today.

Tommy, Cain’s cat. Photo: Sarah Cain

What made you feel loved today?
Today in the studio, I sat down for a break and one of my cats, Tommy, came running at me with remarkable speed. He jumped on my lap and settled in for a long time. He’s the only one of my cats that isn’t feral, but he was found abandoned by my contractor, Ernie. Ernie has worked on everything in my fixer-upper house, and he knows I do cat rescue as a volunteer side project. So when he found Tommy during a big rainstorm crying and holed up on the top of the wheel of a parked truck, he knew where to take him. For a few months when he first arrived, Tommy’s back legs didn’t work but now he regularly jumps off the studio balcony and climbs way up trees. He’s always friendly but especially loving when it’s been raining, maybe because of his origin story.

Inside Judson Studios, Garvanza neighborhood, Los Angeles. The studio specializes in stained glass. Photo: Sarah Cain

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I wish I also had the glass studio I work with frequently start the stained-glass window I’m making for Frieze LA a week or two earlier. Thankfully, the rain is breaking and it will work out, but we cut it too close, especially since the cement is not drying on time due to the weather.

DAY 2: Sarah Cain’s 5-Minute Journal for Monday, February 4, 2019

Web page for Linda Vista, a new play by Tracy Letts. Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
My day ended far from home in Bel Air at a party for Steppenwolf Theatre Company. It was in an awe-inspiring home of an old-school brilliant Hollywood couple. We had a lot of fun, and it surprised me in a bunch of ways, from getting to dip into the hallway to admire a great Helen Frankenthaler and taking in what a talented and bright crew the Steppenwolf ensemble is to hearing [film director] William Friedkin give such a genuine and funny toast honoring Tracy Letts and his new play, Linda Vista. My mind was also momentarily spun when I realized that the actor I had recognized but couldn’t place was Troy Garity from the television show Ballers, which I love watching. I later realized that Garity is Jane Fonda’s son; I love Jane Fonda. It’s funny how you can appreciate two actors and not even know they are related. I had the same experience with John David Washington. He was so good in BlacKkKlansman, which should win some awards. It can be a giant gift to be taken out of the art world and surrounded by a different breed of talent. And having Helen hanging nearby makes any event better. Painting really can transport you to places; so can acting.

Socks from T-Ray Woollies. Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain

What made you feel loved today?
I put on the best pair of socks I’ve ever experienced. A small gesture but such comfort! My Canadian friends gave them to me as a gift, telling me the story of how they are made in their hometown.

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
We had to wake up super early today, and I tried to overcompensate by preparing the wrong tea. Genmaicha, a brown rice green tea, is the right amount of high with no crash for me to deal with most days. But I went in for a few cups of Harneys CTC Assam. Assam, a black tea, is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up, but not at all the tea to have multiple times early on in the day. Tomorrow I’m going to try not to do that again. . . . Although, it is so good with a little almond milk and honey. I might end up repeating my mistake.

DAY 1: Sarah Cain’s 5-Minute Journal for Sunday, February 3, 2019

Cain’s “most feral cat, Galaxy.” Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain

What was the most surprising thing about your day?
My most feral cat, Galaxy, slept inside last night for the first time. I couldn’t believe she was still in the same spot sleeping in my office when I woke up. We’ve had a long, complicated relationship over the past seven or eight years. A few times when I’ve kept her in my office, which is separated from the back porch (where she usually sleeps) from a wall with a glass window, she’s tried to jump through the window. Seeing she slept through the night made me so happy and very surprised.

Cain’s birthday dinner. Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain

What made you feel loved today?
My boyfriend [comedian Marc Maron] cooked and hosted an intimate 40th birthday dinner for me today. The last time I celebrated my birthday, I was 12.  I don’t usually celebrate but figured it’d be nice for my friends who are like family to see “the other half of my life” over at his house. I went upstairs to check on one of the cats who had eaten some of my roses and came downstairs to them all singing happy birthday in the kitchen wearing these funny party hats. It was really adorable and made me pause to look at my sweet, smart friends and the man I love dearly to see what a great reality I’m currently living in.

Cain’s studio. Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Cain

What is one thing you would like to have done differently today?
I’ve been prepping for my Frieze LA installation, but it’s been raining every day for a week in L.A. and the rain is causing issues. I wish I had thought about the week of rain before I started painting the sofa, which will be part of the work on site that I’m creating in the back lot of Paramount, where Frieze Projects is being held. I’m hoping it will dry in time as I would like it to be functional and wish I had thought this through a bit more; rain in L.A. always throws me off. However, the works-on-site aspect of what I do is all about being present, so it’s reminding me that it might be better to not try and plan in advance too much.

You can read an excerpt of a conversation that Zuckerman had with Cain here; it has been collected along with other conversations with artists in her book Conversations with Artists Vol. II, which is being released in October 2019 by Aspen Art Press. The first volume documenting the conversation series was published in 2018.

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