Sage Vaughn

Exploring the border between the interior and the exterior...

Sage Vaughn was born outside of Ashland, Oregon in 1976. After a few feral years in the Oregon forests he and his parents moved to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. This move marked the beginning of his fascination with distilling evidence of the wild within the social environment.

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Birds on telephone lines, swarms of butterflies flying across the boulevard, blooms of wildflowers in urban lots, or coyotes roaming the freeways all inspire Sage Vaughn’s oeuvre of visual research. Using a wide variety of media including: painting, collage, installation, video, and sculpture, Vaughn aesthetically poses the question of where the border between the interior and the exterior resides. This growing body of controlled chaos, cycle-of-life work is deeply rooted in the artist’s aesthetic philosophy, which is both informed and inspired by Robert Irwin.

For Vaughn, being an artist is a labour of merit. He believes he has the responsibility to expand our consciousness and potential, and to see how beautiful and savage the world really is. Art empowers the viewer, instigates the process of discovery, and does not merely depict the physical manifestations of reality but draws out the underlining complexities and richness of life. As Irwin has eloquently stated:

“As artists, the one true enquiry of art as a pure subject is an enquiry of our potential to know the world around us and our actively being in it, with a particular emphasis on the aesthetic. This world is not just somehow given to us whole. We perceive, we shape the world, and as artists we discover and give value to our human potential to 'see' the infinite richness in everything, creating an extended aesthetic reality.” 

His early WILDLIFE series juxtaposed commonplace songbirds with dreamlike metropolitan environments. Illustrating the similarities between the territorial qualities of avian subjects and the people in his Silverlake neighborhood, many of the birds displayed stylised tattoos similar to those of the Hispanic street gangs. His signature manner of combining loose painting with intricate line work began to take shape with these early pieces.

Starting in 2013, Vaughn began the RING CYCLE paintings. These works were inspired by the Das Rheingold sequence of Wagner’s Ring Cycle Opera. The libretto describes a dwarf’s theft of gold from the bottom of the Rhine River, which he then makes into a magical ring of power. By depicting swirling rings of migrating butterflies on a series of stark white canvases, Vaughn reimagined the conceptual prospect of life having more power in its synthetic state than in its natural form. The mass of continuous insects creates an unnatural arrangement that transcends the original beauty of an individual butterfly and focuses the viewer's gaze towards the undeniable cumulative effect of the swarm. The lines of color dripping from the vortexes echo the fleeting existence of the subjects and belie the layered approach he takes in creating these works.

The notions of control and chaos were further explored when he began his WILDFLOWER series in 2015. These pieces examined the practice of gardening as a way to find security in the pandemonium of the natural world. As a meditation on control, the garden offers a myopic point of reassurance by extracting the beautiful components of the wilderness for one's private contemplation. This novel approach to creating landscapes are obsessively detailed and uniform yet feel atmospheric and expansive. The illustrative quality of the tangles of flowers, fungi, snails, grasses, and other life forms, create an intricate network of lines over the exuberant and gestural Fauvist painted colors on the canvas. The visual language of these floral pieces has transcended into his sculptural works as well. Utilising his field sketches of wildflowers, Vaughn has created numerous large-scale public sculpture works. This play on size disrupts the viewers’ impression of scale, giving them an instant awareness of the present moment through the monumental depiction of a common local flower.


In the studio with Sage Vaughn, 2012. Photo credit: Zen Sekizawa , Freunde Von Freunden

Sage Vaughn | RVCA



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