Wellesley College has awarded Southern alumna Sarah Tortora the prestigious Alice C. Cole ’42 Fellowship, which is given to an outstanding early-career painter or sculptor, and this year provides $35,000 of unrestricted funds to support one year of unimpeded time and space to experiment, develop a body of work, and focus on future artistic goals. A solo exhibition at the Jewett Art Gallery at Wellesley College concludes the fellowship.
Tortora graduated from Southern in 2011 with a B.S. in studio art, concentration in sculpture, under the direction of Professors Jeff Slomba and Rachael Vaters-Carr. Tortora says, “Southern is where I experienced my first challenges in art-making; where I used wood and metal tools for the first time, took my first art history courses, and developed a rigorous work ethic.” After graduating, she attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, and received her M.F.A. in interdisciplinary arts in 2013. From 2013 to 2015, she returned to Southern as an adjunct faculty member in the Studio Art Department and taught various sculpture courses. During that time, she also attended artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Jentel Foundation.
Tortora describes her sculptural works, which consist primarily of wood and steel constructions, as “containing references to Modern architecture, art history, furniture, utilitarian fixtures, and mechanisms of display. They suggest performativity, or the potential for intervention, but remain amalgams in a cycle of identification and misrecognition. These works become sites for projection, as facsimiles of archetypal objects and icons, or signs to reveal the structure of their own presentation.”
For the fellowship year, she intends to focus on “expanding a series of large-scale pieces that conflate the sculptural lexicons of museum-based Modern sculpture, often nomadic in its placement, and Equestrian monuments, which are always site-specific.” Tortora’s plan is to devote the majority of her time to working in the studio, not only producing new bodies of work, but also conducting creative research and acquiring new technical skills in the facilitation of future pieces.
The Cole Fellowship is made possible by the generous bequest of Wellesley alumna Alice C. Cole, ’42. Aware of the burdens that face recent graduates of art school, Alice Cole had said that she wanted to provide “a ‘breathing space’ early in an individual’s career that will stimulate creativity and allow time to focus on career objectives, freeing the individual from concentrating on purely monetary achievements.”