Sarah Levy was born in 1989 in Portland, Oregon. Her career as an activist began when she organized a student walkout against the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2008 when she was a senior in high school. Sarah got her BA in History at Macalester College with the intention of working as a journalist. Before graduating she performed in multiple productions of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History. Sarah is currently enrolled at the New York Academy of Art, where she expects to graduate with her MFA in Drawing in 2020.
Sarah began drawing in 2013 as a means of coping with the trauma of her mother’s sudden death. In that time she took classes from Portland artist Phil Sylvester.
In 2014-2015 she worked as a journalist in Palestine and Greece. While there she also drew portraits of many of the people she met and interviewed, experimenting with how visual art can be combined with journalism.
Back in the U.S. in late 2015, in response to then-candidate Trump’s misogyny, Sarah used her own menstrual blood and a tampon to paint the portrait “Whatever” (Bloody Trump). The painting quickly went viral and was covered by major news sources around the globe before being acquired by the Bundeswehr Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany.
Before moving to New York for school Sarah worked as a freelance artist and volunteered as a children’s grief counselor while also organizing in Portland against White Supremacy, war, and for women’s rights.
I believe in the power of beauty and in the beauty of faces. My hope is that there is some magic in a drawing that can make the viewer stop for a second longer to look, and in that second there is the possibility to see more deeply and the possibility to reassess preconceived notions that might only be reaffirmed in a passing glance at a photograph.
In my portraiture I typically depict the faces of people who are often ignored, silenced, or vilified by popular media: a child in Gaza whose parents were murdered in an Israeli bomb attack; a young man from Ferguson, Missouri who was murdered by police; the great German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg. Through choosing these subjects for my art I aim to highlight the importance of these people—to learn from, to remember, to recognize, and to see how they might be relatable to ourselves. In this way I hope to reclaim a sort of grassroots radical history as well as to grasp and hold a light to the current moment.
I also think there is an inherent power in faces. In their curves, lines, folds, and shadows, and in what deep emotion just minor variances can suggest. By drawing out the spirit and beauty of one face that the viewer might not have stopped and looked at before, I hope to plant a seed for how we look at people and how we learn to see each other.
“Art is necessary in order that man should be able to recognize and change the world. But art is also necessary by virtue of the magic inherent in it.”
—Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art
"Yet why should an artist's way of looking at the world have any meaning for us? Why does it give us pleasure? Because, I believe, it increases our awareness of our own potentiality. Not of course our awareness of our potentiality as artists ourselves. But a way of looking at the world implies a certain relationship with the world, and every relationship implies action. The kind of actions implied vary a great deal...
A work of art can, to some extent, increase an awareness of different potentialities in different people. The important point is that a valid work of art promises in some way or another the possibility of an increase, an improvement. Nor need the word be optimistic to achieve this; indeed, its subject may be tragic. For it is not the subject that makes the promise, it is the artist's way of viewing his subject. Goya's way of looking at a massacre amounts to the contention that we ought to be able to do without massacres."
-John Berger, Collected Essays