Sarah Bouchard is a multidisciplinary artist and curator. Her artwork spans the mediums of photography, painting, film, sculpture, installation, and collage. She is the artist-in-residence at the Masonic Temple in downtown Portland, Maine, where she is in the process of creating a large multi-media installation that explores the presence of the feminine within the Masonic Order, as it intersects specifically with the architecture and history of the Congress Street Temple. Bouchard has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Maine College of Art, a BA in Studio Art from the University of Maine at Farmington, and a BA in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University.
I am concerned with exploring and reviving neglected entities - psychological spaces, human beings, and the crumbling aspects of material reality. I find meaning and intrigue in overlooked places. I am primarily an introspective artist, working mostly with my own inner realm as inspiration and guide through the process of making. I am thoroughly taken with anything involving the use of my hands, making materials integral to anything I do. I am moved by texture and pattern, as well as subtle shifts in color, light and sound. I am invested in unlikely juxtapositions that bring about a shift in perception.
I first became interested in working inside the Masonic Temple in Portland, Maine, while touring the building as a prospective buyer, scouting the space on behalf of a small non-profit arts organization that was seeking a public venue for its activities. Upon entering the building, I became overwhelmed by the architectural grandeur of the space. As I moved through the rooms, I found myself hanging back to photograph subtle nuances of the architecture and remnants of rituals that had taken place the night before. I found the “otherness” of the building profoundly inspiring.
Further research into the history of the Masonic Order revealed a strong emphasis on the pursuit of individual refinement. As a secret society that evolved from a stone masons’ guild into a philosophical order invested in the architecture of the human soul, the Masons had a documented history of their own shift from physical to conceptual exploration. Utilizing the symbolism of the mason’s craft to identify the stages of psychic and spiritual growth, the Masonic Order developed a brotherhood among men that transcended the boundaries of race, creed and religion.
Within my Masonic Temple Project, the Temple is symbolic of the body - the space in which the true quest is always grounded. The emphasis on positioning the work within the body is a significant symbolic aspect of my work. To secure regular access to the Masonic Temple, I created an Artist-in-Residency program, to insert myself within the space. I proposed that I be given studio space within the Temple, as well as a place to store the components for a large-scale installation to be mounted in the Corinthian Hall, the ritual room of the temple. My exploration of community and interpersonal relations in the abstract became enacted and embodied in my day-to-day engagement with members of the Masonic Order.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work within the sacred space of the Temple. The architecture of the Temple exemplifies a stunning but rigid structure, crumbling in places, preventing an openness that would allow the general public to experience the space. My work is an ephemeral, fluid source of potency that will transform the space with an infusion of feminine energy.
The installation at the Masonic Temple will consist of hundreds of orbs suspended throughout key rooms of the Temple. The spheres will be 24, 36, and 48 inches in diameter, constructed from layers of tracing vellum-paper mache. They resemble anything from a celestial ore to an egg, both spiritual and biological forms. The piece will appear to float within the space, honoring those who have passed through the hall in pursuit of human perfection, offering an appreciation for the transcendent within the everyday, and recognizing an egg-like potential for the future.
The most striking sculptural component of the Masonic Temple installation will be an enormous bees’ nest created out of paper mache, measuring approximately 20 feet in diameter, suspended in the Eastern Star Hall, on the fifth floor of the Temple. The Eastern Star Hall was once the ritual room for the women’s auxiliary of the Masonic Order.
Bees and the hive have long been symbols of industry and regeneration within the Masonic Order. When a queen bee is ready to lay her brood, she finds an unused, low-traffic space to build her nest. In the context of this project, the Eastern Star Hall serves as the site of the nest, with the orbs in other rooms symbolizing the spread of this new life and energy from a decidedly private space throughout the more active rooms of the building.