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Sarah Leitten's Earth Juice


Sarah is a comic artist, sculptor, musician, and turtle owner living and making art in Humboldt Park. In addition to wood burning, comic creation, and mud monster molding, Sarah also uses her studio for sleeping, spying on the neighbors, and white magic.

I\W: What are you currently working on?
SL: Right now I’m working on this comic called ‘Stress Fracture.’ It’s a mini comic which I intend to self publish. A lot of comics have to do with when I got a stress fracture this summer and messed up my foot. I was kind of in complete isolation— I couldn’t ride my bike or anything. But some of them, like this one up here, is about Judy Garland and this character ‘Me’ who is throwing up, and through the throw up Judy Garland’s spirit arises!

A lot of your art features people eating bread, or has bread in it, are you gluten-intolerant?
I have celiac disease. I’m half Polish, so growing up everyone was eating pierogies and stuff and I was always getting sick. I didn’t get diagnosed until later in life. When you’re not able to take part in the meal you are ostracizing yourself, and you feel very isolated. With gluten I have this hatred, but deep love for it—and I guess that comes out in my work a lot. I think the whole way that people see it now is almost like a trend, and it gives the disease this whole bad rap. It becomes posh, because it is so expensive.

I like to call wheat ‘the stalk of death, and the staff of life,’ because to me that’s what it is. It gives life, provides the world with food, but it can also for some people—kill you, harm you. So you can start to fetishize about it. I have this tattoo. My Polish grandma, she had some plates and I got this design from them.


Does your practice of white magic come into your work at all?
Yeah I think it comes more into my sculptures. Within my sculptures I try to use my experience as a florist and use natural materials—creating these earth’s children, earth-worshiping creatures. My studio space used to be in the Peanut Gallery and now it’s in my bedroom. I like it more because now I can hang out with my cats. I can take a break, play music, meditate at my table—it’s good. I feel much more productive now, but maybe that’s just my personality.


How did the residency at The Yellow Book influence your work?
I was surrounded by books all the time and the owners are super into comics as well. I think that got me more into thinking about comics. At first I had all of these ideas and stories for stuff, but I never really jumped into it—the whole idea of storytelling through pictures.

When I was there I was also working on a lot of music—recording and performing stuff. That lead me to now putting out a tape. I call myself Weird Sarah like Weird Al Yankovic. I used to play under a bunch of different names but I settled on this.

Do you have one medium that is more cathartic than the rest?
I think sculpture. When I make those mud monsters I feel like that’s my inner soul leaking out. That’s my essence, my earth juice. But I have all these funny jokes that I like to put out there, so that’s therapy too. The perfect one liner is all you need. I love Gary Larson and stupid Far Side jokes.


Do you create any characters that you visit frequently?
I think so. Some of them are almost self-portraits or self-abstractions. The old ladies are a constant theme, and I think they will always be because they are just so important to me. I like to use the old ladies and turtles a lot because I think they are both these types of creatures that are underdogs. Old people in general don’t get the respect that they should and aging is something, especially here in America, that we’re like, ‘Oh no we, don’t want to age.’ But it is something so beautiful. I just want to put them up on a pedestal because they are these celestial creatures.

Tell us about your own turtle.
My turtle’s name is Mr. Turtle. My aunt had three turtles before I was born and then gave the turtles to my dad. They are territorial so he bit their heads off. I thought maybe he was sad and alone but then I thought that if I put another one in—he would probably just eat it.


What technique do you use for your mud monsters?
I have this technique where I use dirt, different glues, plasters, and leaves. I have been using this for many years. I got it down now where it is almost like a clay. I just go outside, I have a compost. I get my other supplies through Monster Makers, it’s this monster-making company in Cleveland, Ohio.

Within my sculptures I try to use my experience as a florist and use natural materials—creating these earth’s children, earth-worshiping creatures.

Is there a medium you want to explore next?
I want to get into printmaking, and I really want to get into ceramics. I had this idea of making little sculptures of some of my comic book characters. Also there is this lady next door, I call her “The Dog Lady.” She trains dogs and she’s really large and she is always doing tie-dye. I want to do a ceramic sculpture of her wearing tie-dye and standing on a bunch of dogs. She’s always yelling at her stupid dogs. Even though I don’t like her, I love living next to her because it is fuel for my artwork.



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