Meet Artist Sarah Hinckley

July 6, 2022

A thirteenth-generation Cape Cod resident challenges conventional concepts of beauty with oils and watercolors.

Text by Erika Ayn Finch

In Sarah Hinckley’s Yarmouth Port studio, oil paintings in various stages of completion hang on the walls, while a stack of finished canvases, carefully protected with Bubble Wrap, await shipment. Some are bound for galleries in Provincetown, Connecticut, and New York. Others will go to residential designers, relationships that formed years ago when Hinckley worked as a bookkeeper for a series of architects and continue today with professionals like Gauthier-Stacy co-founder Susan Stacy, who, coincidentally, lives in Hinckley’s childhood home.

Hinckley’s watercolors-on-paper take shape down the street, in her home studio. How does she decide what medium to work in on any given day? There are practical considerations, of course: oils take longer to dry; her watercolors are smaller and therefore quicker to create when exhibition deadlines loom. But for someone who began drawing and painting at a young age as a way to express her thoughts and feelings, it also comes down to communication. “With oil paintings, the thought process is slower,” she explains. “And you can paint over oils. But with watercolors, you have to leave what’s on the paper, which exposes different thoughts. The ideas are more free-flowing.”

Still, she insists painting is a nonverbal process for her. The thirteenth-generation Cape Cod resident—her ancestors, many of them builders, landed there in 1639—uses lines and colors to evoke fleeting environmental details or the emotions she felt as she wandered through Petra at night, gazed up at a brilliant New Mexico sky, or stood on the shore of her beloved Yarmouth marshes.

Abstracts weren’t always her preferred method of communication. Hinckley earned her bachelor’s in fine arts from Tufts University, but it wasn’t until she attended grad school at Columbia University that she found her voice as a painter. “Grad school challenged my intellectual abilities,” she says. “I learned to mesh my intuitive inspiration with formal issues on the canvas because I wanted a voice in the painting. I wanted to feel not to be told.”

There’s something else Hinckley doesn’t want to be told: the definition of beauty. She cites Mark Rothko and the later works of Claude Monet as inspirations for pushing the vocabulary on what can be beautiful. “The definition of beauty used to be so narrow, but recently it’s opened up,” she says. “My work is not a result of inward reflection but an outward search for beauty inspired from our ever-challenging world.”

Sarah Hinckley is represented by The Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown, Mass., galleryschoolhouse.com. See more of her work at sarahhinckley.com.