Mirlea Saks is a Maine-based artist who specializes in bold sculpture and innovative three-dimensional acrylic paintings.

Artist's Statement

I was born in South Africa and immigrated to the US in the early 1990s. My evolution as an artist reflects the surprises I encountered on becoming an American. Having grown up under apartheid, I came to America with perhaps unrealistic expectations of the kind of freedom I’d find in the United States. I discovered that while Americans did indeed enjoy many precious freedoms (frequently taking these for granted in a manner that was shocking to an immigrant), they came with complex cultural nuances that made for a much more uptight society than the US’s media exports had prepared me for. Settling into suburban New England was a thought-provoking voyage into an often stifling political correctness that contrasted markedly with aspects of my South African background, which, despite my native land’s politics, had in some ways been culturally much looser and open to spontaneity. And it’s hard for Americans to appreciate just how bizarrely the US’s sense of entitlement to a material cornucopia, including its obsession with excess, comes across to those raised with a set of values geared to a simpler lifestyle.


These impressions have given some of my art a satirical tone. But I don’t see myself as a one-theme artist. Other works of mine have no message but whimsically celebrate the privilege of being alive in this place and at this moment in history. My abstract images have found inspiration in sources as diverse as cityscapes, New England’s Fall palette, and my day job as a media industry professional in publishing and advertising. I’m intrigued by cross-fertilizations, such as the intertwining of painting and sculpture, and the arguably artificial line between creative commercial media and “fine” art. I was lucky to grow up surrounded by art. My Latvian father, David Saks, was a prolific painter – his subjects included scenes of Yiddish life -- and occasional sculptor. My childhood memories are filled with images of that complicated émigré, transplanted from his Baltic homeland to Africa in the early years of the 20th century, always either creating a new work in his studio or brooding over what he’d create next. My maternal grandfather, A.W.B. Peterson, was a sculptor. In South Africa I studied journalism at Rhodes University, the Art School of the Tygerburg Technical College, and the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. My art studies spanned sculpture, painting, drawing, jewelry design and woodworking skills as well as ceramics, which I studied under master potter Martine Laubscher. I’ve worked as a book editor, magazine managing editor, magazine feature writer, advertising copywriter and publication designer for companies including Reader’s Digest and BP. My publication design has won a number of awards. I’ve served as an art juror for the University of Stellenbosch.



These largely satirical works combine painting, sculpture and sometimes words (in the form of narrative text) with influences from advertising, film, graphic novels and computer media. More than decorative, these Scaintings are meant to entertain, provoke and actively involve the viewer.
Each work contains a story which gives concrete meaning and movement to perceptions and ideas that would otherwise be mere abstractions. There is sometimes a dynamic sequence of events suggested within a work. To evoke this sense of evolution the work often has multiple parts, often free-standing, or that burst out of confining rectangular spaces to which we are accustomed.

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