Sara Pedigo has a keen eye for details. In the past decade-plus, the St. Augustine painter and educator has been mindfully studying her surroundings and providing a kind of field report through large and small works. Focusing on figures, self-portraits and still-life subject matter, Pedigo’s work mines the commonplace to offer snapshots into her personal world. At her three-person Plum Gallery show with painter Mary Lou Gibson and blown-glass artist Thomas Long, opening Oct. 3, Pedigo is exhibiting several recent larger paintings as well as a group of her Tiny-Smalls, small-scale works that are miniature microcosms of contemporary realist paintings.
In 2010, Pedigo began the ongoing Tiny-Smalls series, which now includes about 400 pieces. “There is just something about working really small that is deeply satisfying and interesting to me,” says Pedigo. “The intimacy inherent in the scale is very appealing, as is the economy of mark-making; a single brushstroke can be an entire arm or swath of land. I love the limited amount of information available.” Rendered in dense strikes of paint, the Tiny-Smalls are distilled versions of the kind of softly diffused realism indicative of Pedigo’s work. These particular compositions feature everything from bucolic landscapes to images of children. While these works are small in scale, they’ve earned sizeable attention. Pedigo’s Winter to Spring, a 1-inch-by-7-inch strip of 1-inch-by-1.25-inch paintings, was featured in a 2006 exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Larger pieces feature the same kinds of typical settings, with an equally inventive use of color, offering, at times, a voyeur-like quality. Family scenes have been key to Pedigo’s work. Many of her paintings utilized the contents of a box of old photos as source material. From these pictures, a timeline of her childhood and youth, Pedigo would cull different ideas and events, rearrange them on the canvas and create a kind of false reminiscence — remembrances and celebrations transformed into manufactured memories. The works were also based on a sense of grief over the loss of her parents. Pedigo’s mother passed away in 2006; her father in 2009. “I think I painted myself through a place where those images needed to be out and around,” says Pedigo. “I have always used making art as a means to understand the world, and in particular my place or relationship to it. Those paintings were really a way for me to make present what I had lost. Only in the last year was I able to put most of the photographs away and stop milling around in the past.”
Pedigo’s introspective approach is matched by her productive nature. Since 2003, she has been featured in more than 70 solo and group exhibits and received a dozen awards acknowledging her work. Days are spent at Flagler College, where she is an associate professor and teaches more than a half-dozen courses ranging from drawing and painting to portfolio classes. “I am a better artist because of the daily interactions I have with my students and colleagues,” she says, acknowledging how her understanding of color, light, and “the tricky business of translating the world around us onto a flat surface” have improved during her time spent at Flagler.
After work, the ever-prolific Pedigo remains devoted to her personal discipline. In the last few weeks alone she’s completed a group of drawings, three medium-sized paintings and 10 Tiny-Smalls. “I try to make a lot of work,” she says. “Some of it is hubris, because I always think the next thing will be better.” After a summer of intensive painting, Pedigo says, she recently ordered “a ton of paint” — forthcoming work will feature still-lifes of friends in their living spaces and even her ceiling fan’s chains.
Pedigo’s ability to infuse the passing imagery of ordinary life with beauty and even poignancy is based on a direct line to what is truly contemporary — the here and now.
“The work is really about being present in the world and about getting outside of my head to simply appreciate being alive,” says Pedigo. “I am actively engaging in the conscious act of fostering gratitude toward the beauty inherent in the world around me. It is a wildly simple notion that is much harder to accomplish in practice.”

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october, 2021