Several years ago in a coffee shop, Sarah Wieben noticed paintings on the walls. She noticed they weren’t very good. “I called the woman who arranged the shows there,” Wieben explains, “and said I wanted to have a show.”
She hadn’t yet gone to art school. In fact, she hadn’t yet made any paintings to speak of. Yet Wieben got that show, and dutifully studied painting at MCAD, and now enjoys a career as both artist and instructor. The confidence to reach this point comes from some prior life experiences unlike most incoming freshmen have had.
Originally a “Soviet Studies” major, Wieben transferred her language skills into a job with the United States Embassy in Moscow. After a year as a nanny for a diplomat’s family, she was intent on staying, so for five years she worked at English instruction and freelance catering (a novelty in freshly post-communist Russia!), and discovered the arts with both Russian and expatriate friends.
Her MCAD studies began in earnest once she’d realized painting was the point of her life—and while some might think this ‘delay’ in her education was unwise, she insists, “I feel people should go to school twice. Once in their twenties, and then again after they’ve lived a while, done other things.”
Wieben deals in multiple subjects and approaches, but is best known for landscapes. By her choice, they are evocative but not sentimental; they show farm fields, shaded creeks, seasonal changes, in rich colors. But it’s no accident that one subset of paintings is about “Inclement Weather”—storms advance on a viewer, and roads look dangerously slippery. “Storms provide great high contrast for a painting,” she explains.
Other paintings evoke historic framing styles, with allegorical vignettes set beside larger framed images. “I have ideas all the time,” she says, “so I’m never short of ideas and will pursue them. The public has to get behind my interests to make it worth continuing, but I know I’ll always make abstracts as well.”
Now, as a teacher in both classrooms and for private lessons, Wieben sees the value of art-making for all. “I’ve taught 16-year-olds and grandparents, and I love their work. I’m really proud of them. I genuinely love the teaching, too.”