The first thing one sees in Sadé Beasley’s home studio is a portrait of a woman on the wall. The colors are bold and vibrant as the woman’s face, masked in a black balaclava, contrasts against a red desert backdrop.
Tajana is her name. Her expression is enigmatic. Her eyes flash with intensity; her lips are cracked and raw. She has the look of someone who has just traveled to a wasteland and returned with an epiphany.
The work looms large, four feet tall and three wide. “I feel like, the bigger the piece is, the more emotion is in it,” Beasley said. “It takes up so much space and you have to give it some type of attention.”
She wasn't always comfortable painting on a large scale. But after completing an Art Saved My Life residency, she decided to try something new and go big in her work. She was able to buy better quality paints and bigger canvases with money she earned from selling her paintings during the art residency.
Beasley has drawn all her life. When she was a child, she wanted to be like her artist father.
“He went off to the Navy and I didn't see him a lot when I was younger so I... aspired to draw like him and get as good as him.”
She started painting in middle school through the Art Up program at Fernwood Middle School. Beasley said she held off from making art during high school and most of college, but then returned to painting last year.
A dysfunctional household, a family tragedy, a hectic college life balancing academics and internships - all brought her back to her paints, canvasses and brushes.
The Art Saved My Life residency helped her push her work even further. Project organizers found a space where she could paint. She applied to attend the Build Your Own Brand retreat in Washington, D.C. and got in. The residency stipend helped pay for travel and the cost of making prints to sell.
The residency was a stepping stone for more creative opportunities. The creators behind Art Saved My Life recommended Beasley for another artist’s residency in Salem.
“I felt like they really did what they could to help me grow as an artist,” she said.
The experience gave her space - space to paint, space to express herself, space to unpack her thoughts and unleash what truly moved her.
Most importantly, the art residency gave her the space to talk about depression through her work.
“It was in essence saving my life and giving me life to paint this work that meant so much to me and had so much just raw emotion and power in it,” Beasley said.
Her portraits carry the weight of trauma, but also a defiant spirit. Telling these stories helps her heal and connect to others who are healing through art, too.