In August 2013 Sarah Mosteller broke her back in a rafting accident. On bed rest for four months, Mosteller, who graduated from the College of Charleston in 2015 with a BA in art history and studio art, took up knitting. That hobby turned into a skill which turned into her art: metal, knitted sculptures — fragile and fierce at the same time.
“It’s commentary on the idea of fashion,” says Mosteller of her upcoming Beresford exhibition, She(ll). “There’s a part where it’s constricting and confining and we have to follow normative trends. Or it can be really freeing and an artistic way to express yourself.”
Mosteller knits metal into intricate designs that range from the macabre — think skulls — to the dainty, like gloves and purses. The braided steel wire sculptures are beautiful, but they’re also a bit startling, as if they were created for someone from the past, or the future. They’re powerful in their from-afar simplicity, and in up-close intricacy; they can stand alone, but seeing just one piece, you know that a collection would be powerful — found in the closet of a ghost, perhaps, or with a friendly alien from a fashionable planet.
Mosteller experienced both the constriction and the freedom of fashion when she was on bed rest four years ago. “When I broke my back and wasn’t wearing normal clothes, it was liberating,” says Mosteller. “When I got out of the brace I was kind of stunted because I had to decide what to wear, which seems so trivial, but it was an interesting thing to reflect on.”
The title of Mosteller’s Beresford show also stems from a little bit of reflection. “When I was on bed rest I would watch Notting Hill all the time. Elvis Costello sings this song in the opening credits and at the end when Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts get together,” says Mosteller. “There’s this one line: ‘She may not be what she seems inside her shell,’ and it just hit me that that was what the title needed to be.”
Before her Beresford show, Mosteller was busy presenting her work in her home town of Mobile, Ala., where she had her first solo show, and in a gallery in New Orleans. She also recently entered her largest ever piece in Lake City, SC’s Artfields competition — a full debutante gown made out of metal, along with formal gloves. The deb gown begs the question — is Mosteller bridging the gap between sculpture and fashion; will she ultimately create wearable pieces?
“In high school I made dresses, I did fiber work. I realize how integrated that is in my sculpture work,” says Mosteller. “I would love Beyoncé to wear a gown I made, but I don’t consider myself an avant garde fashion designer. I view myself as a sculptor.” Despite this, that deb gown was technically wearable — Mosteller had a friend model it and another friend take photos. “It was a surreal moment,” says Mosteller of seeing someone wearing her gown.
Mosteller’s work sits somewhere between permanent and passing — sculptures suggest longevity while the items they mimic, be it gloves, gowns, or purses, fade in and out of style, and of purpose and meaning. Mosteller has learned a lot working within this tension, balancing delicate designs with tough metal, growing calluses on her hands while calming her mind through the creative process. “Over the years mental health has become such an integral part of my life and it has a lot to do with my art,” says Mosteller.
With this in mind, Mosteller decided that she wanted to pursue a lifelong dream — art therapy. “I love people and I love the relational aspect, and how it can be used on a global and local level,” she says. This fall Mosteller moves up to New York to study art therapy at NYU. “I don’t think I’ll use it just in one way,” says Mosteller of her new career path. “I want to have a healing center, empowering young women to create and take care of their mental health. I want to teach them tools to cope, which, art, for me, was exactly that.”