Miriam Sagasti is a constant gardener.
“I love the moonflower since it blooms at night and smells so gorgeous,” Sagasti said. “It attracts moths, and I think moths are so beautiful.”
This floral crush inspired “Night Visitors,” a large watercolor painting in Sagasti’s current exhibit at Carrboro’s North Carolina Crafts Gallery, 212 W. Main St., called “Spring is Here.”
Every piece in the show is inspired by Sagasti’s natural world, which includes her garden as well as her wild surroundings, whether she is on a walk in Roanoke or in Galax, Va., at her tiny, country home or hiking in the Andes Mountains in Peru.
“The color that I have in my art is because of growing up in Peru,” said Sagasti, who grew up in Lima. But it was not Lima that threw color into her artistic life.
“Lima is gray and dirty. I think the most influence in my artwork was when I traveled with my family in Peru,” Sagasti said. “My father took us every year to the Andes on a two-week vacation. My father loved nature and showed and taught us about it. We hiked on lakes and glaciers. It was pure and bright.” The bright colors of the Andean people also captured young Sagasti and she not only took the images home in her head, but also in the camera her father let her use.
“He would then suggest that I should paint the images. My mother did too,” Sagasti said.
Whether it has been in her professional roles as interior designer, graphic designer, or children’s book illustrator, Sagasti has thrived. She has explored and mastered many media, such as enameling and photography, with her insatiable appetite for learning. "Miriam's detail is spectacular, and she is constantly evolving,” said gallery owner Sara Gress.
“Leaves” in the exhibit is a prime example. Though black and white, this diptych pops off the wall, even next to Sagasti’s color-saturated pieces. Sagasti collected the leaves last fall and here, immortalized, they are rendered with a technique that Sagasti has recently been exploring: Scratch Board.
Scratch Board is a white clay board that can be bought with black ink already spread on it and the artist can then scratch the surface back to white with an implement. Sagasti buys it in white and applies her own black pigment. Though the images in “Leaves” are true to the shape of the original leaves, by replicating them in black and white, Sagasti has created a splendid riff to their original state.
“Nature can be chaotic,” Sagasti said. “Unless you are doing a perfect illustration to show growing, you can eliminate things when you are painting. In nature, you have to go where nature is telling you, but you have to show it in the best way.”
As viewers can see through April 29, this is exactly what she has done.