When artist Carabella Sands found herself with six years’ worth of art and a desire to film a movie, she decided to sell that art at an art show. However, instead of hanging her art in a gallery and assigning titles and prices, Sands decided to do something different. “I am really bad at assigning prices to things, and I honestly just wanted to clear it all out. This seemed liked the best way to do it, was to just make it all equal and fun.” Sands created what she described as a combination raffle/grab bag situation. Participants would pay 25 dollars for a ticket and, at the end of the ticket sales period, receive a piece of Sands’ art, entirely at random, during the closing party.
Sands hopes that the end result of the event will be excitement and, if ticket-holders are not content with the art they receive, “people can trade and bribe each other, and maybe other people will make a lot more money out of this than I will, I don’t even know. I’m hoping there’s a scalping market that comes from it.” There is definitely a wide variety to the art Sands has on display, running the gamut from marker on napkin to delicately painted gold leaf.
Napkins are one of Sands’s favorite mediums on which to work: “I really love napkins. Just the way that ink takes to them, and you can’t really control it as much, but it’s also smaller and it has a life of its own.” The napkins allow her to create more tightly controlled pieces with a smaller scope. Sands described herself as going through phases artistically, both in what she chooses to work with and what she chooses to work on: “Right now I’m still really into brush markers, and specifically this one black refillable brush marker, but I like them in general. And before that I was really obsessed with gel pens for a long time. And before that I liked old markers, markers that are like ten, twenty years old so they’re almost out of ink so you have to rub them really carefully in layers, and they look really watercolory but also sculptural… I like to draw on all sorts of things. I was really into this glossy, really cheap photo paper for a while, because the markers lasted really long on them and the colors popped really well. I just like mixing it up, really.”
Sands’s history as an artist began when she heard a riddle about a man who hanged himself in a room that had nothing for him to stand on, just a puddle of water. The answer to the riddle was that the puddle of water had once been a block of ice, on which the man had stood. Sands was struck by the imagery, and thought it would be funnier if the block of ice was a snowman. She asked her roommates, four of whom were artists, to draw that scenario, but none of them would. So Sands created the piece herself. “I borrowed one of their sets of crayons and made it myself, and I just couldn’t stop after that.”
At that point, Sands’s prolific creation began. Some of the most striking of her works include one of a stylized rat head, on which is written the stark quote, “I counted thirty rats on the ruins of the demolished row home/community garden lot. They ran around on the insides of tires. You said they looked like they were powering something evil. You also said I was the prettiest but you weren’t looking at me when you said it.” Sands said that one of the things that inspires her, being from Baltimore and creating art in Baltimore, is trash: “Trash is a big thing in Baltimore, and lowbrow stuff is very acceptable and celebrated even, so I guess I wanted to stick with my roots.”
Another striking piece is entitled “Homicidal Ideations,” of a girl, drawn in white on black paper, just barely touching the string of a balloon that’s a toothy, crazy-eyed dog in clownish colors, starkly contrasting with the black and white of the rest of the piece. Sands pointed that out as one of her favorites, as well as “Lara Discovered Her Soul Is Made of Chocolate So She Ate It,” a drawing of a girl leaning against a cat which leans against a grouping of mice. Many of the pieces and subjects have a dreamy, dreamtime atmosphere, in that they can swiftly and without warning switch to nightmare in the twitch of an eye, like illustrations from books of fairy tales. This is apt, as Sands considers herself largely an illustrator: “I consider myself mostly an illustrator. If there isn’t action and a story behind it, I really can’t keep being interested in drawing it. I’m inspired by things that are half other things, and cruelty and peril – just story, mostly.” Many of the stories are personal for Sands, but she illustrates the stories of others, too, and is involved in several current book projects.
Some of the pieces also make smart commentary on religious themes, such as an intricately illustrated drawing of an angel and a snake facing off in a garden, the snake coiled around a bottle labeled “snake oil,” as they watch a burning book. Another, drawn on a napkin, shows what looked to be Saint Patrick standing on a brilliantly-colored nest of snakes. Some are very detailed and complicated, such as “50 years is 3 minutes under water,” all done in wavy blue with a watercolor look, and others are very simple, like a girl with bees above her curly head, “Don’t leave” written in gold.
In large part, Sands says she is interested in moving on to other forms of creative expression, and is not worried about losing six years’ worth of accumulated art: “I would sit with them and giggle to myself, because it was really novel to me that I could make something that was just in my head to be in front of me, and it felt really alive, but now I’ve been doing it for years and years it doesn’t really impress me that much anymore.” She is hoping the show will help in funding a movie she hopes to make, one she describes as “horror mumblecore.” While Sands seems to know where she’s going, her ticket buyers will just have to wait until the closing party to see what they get.