The momentary beauty of Sage Vaughn’s butterflies is palpable. These impossibly lovely, delicate creatures appear to have magically landed or violently crashed, oozing their colorful pigment like blood-stained marks across the canvas. The dichotomy of these delicate and ephemeral creatures co-existing over images of gritty urban life creates a contrast that is layered, mysterious, and up for interpretation. Vaughn’s butterflies appear as choreographed nature–their drips echoing his early beginnings as a graffiti artist. Sometimes juxtaposed against the likes of mundane interiors, forests, or the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, Vaughn’s distinctive paintings create provocative relationships between the built and natural environment. The effect is dreamlike and almost hypnotic, as swarms of butterflies concurrently live and die in graceful formations that are at once heart-breakingly beautiful and sublimely melancholy.
Sage Vaughn is an LA-based painter and illustrator who is best recognized for his wildlife series. Moustachioed, eccentric, and consistent, Vaughn works in his studio from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and has been quoted as an artist with a blue-collar work ethic. As a child, Vaughn and his father, who was also a painter, would spend hours on end at the LA Zoo sketching animals all day. As a teenager, growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the late 70s and early 80s, Vaughn was greatly influenced by the punk movement and graffiti art. Vaughn’s current Wildlives paintings focus on the juxtaposition and coexistence of humans and animals, drawing comparisons between their inherent liberty, freedom, and survival skills. He has had widely acclaimed solo shows in New York, Geneva, and London and has been featured in a group show at MOCA in LA, curated by the Beastie Boys’ Mike D.