FiveMyles Gallery


A self-taught, multi-disciplinary artist, Sara Erenthal has a strong presence on the streets of Park Slope, Brooklyn. We recently spoke.

You’ve established quite a presence here on the streets of Park Slope. What keeps you coming back?

There is a lack of public art in Park Slope, and there seems to be a hunger for it. Folks here have been so receptive to what I am doing. They seem excited to have something interesting and different to look at.  Park Slope is where I am living these days, and so it’s easy for me to get around either by foot or by bike.


With the exceptions of the walls you are commissioned to paint, your canvas is almost always some type of discarded object. Why is that?

Since folks take many of my works home with them, I feel that I am saving trash from ending up in landfills. Also – what I am doing is not illegal. I cannot take the legal risks of doing unsanctioned artworks that could land me with a fine, time in jail or both.


You almost always seem to be drawing faces. Can you tell us something about them?

They are variations of myself – subconscious portraits. Growing up in a cloistered ultra-Orthodox world, I was limited to just one hairstyle. The changes in the hairstyles represent the changes in myself.


I’ve noticed folks stop and often photograph you while you are drawing.  Do any particular interactions with passersby stand out?

Yes! Recently a woman ran after me as I was rushing out of my house — in my pajamas — to the local health food store to buy some ginger. I was sick at the time. She asked me if she could bring her father – a huge fan since he had seen my work on a mattress — to meet me. He showed up almost instantly for his daughter to snap a photo of the two of us  — with me decked in my pajamas!


In addition to your work on found objects, you’ve also painted on a range of sanctioned surfaces this past year. Any particular challenges? Any favorites?

Painting on a shuttered gate was definitely a challenge as I generally paint on flat surfaces. Among my favorites is the artwork that I painted at D’Vine Taste.


Yes! I love the stark simplicity of the white on black. It’s beautiful! And what about the piano? How did that become your canvas?

A local pre-school threw it out last spring with a sign “Free piano.” Six months later it was still there. I asked then for permission to paint it. And I love that it is still there! I feel as though I gave it a new life.


You did! What’s ahead? 

I am now preparing for a solo show to open at FiveMyles Gallery at 558 St Johns Place on March 9 from 6-9pm. And later in the spring, I will be exhibiting my work at Google’s New York site in Chelsea. An outdoor mural in Gowanus is also on the horizon.

I’m looking forward to it all! Good luck!

Photo credits: 1-5 & 7 Lois Stavsky; 6 Tara Murray; interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Brooklyn-based Sara Erenthal has shared her distinct drawings, public art, sculptures, and mixed media artworks with us New Yorkers for the past several years in both galleries and on the streets. After viewing her current outdoor installation adjacent to FiveMyles, I had the opportunity speak with her:

"Sara Eremthal installation"

I love your installation here in Crown Heights adjacent to FiveMyles. When did you first begin to share your talents in public spaces?

About four years ago – soon after I returned to NYC from backpacking in India – I drew 100 small faces with a Sharpie in a range of places from phone booths to subways.  It was quite secretive! And, luckily, I was never arrested. These days I can’t take those risks, and I only paint outside on found objects – like abandoned mattresses, castoff furniture, useless appliances and discarded canvases.

Why the streets?

I’ve always loved street art, and I love sharing with others. When I paint on found objects and leave them on the streets, I give people the chance to pick up a free gift. Art should be accessible to the public, and art galleries can be intimidating.


When did you first begin drawing?

I’ve been drawing all my life, and I’ve always loved art. But growing up in an ultra-Orthodox family, I wasn’t exposed to art outside of a few landscapes and portraits of Hasidic rabbis. I never went to museums or galleries. I do remember, though, seeing art that I loved while I was riding the subways as a child!

When were you first exposed to contemporary art – other than what was “permissible” and what you saw on the subway trains?

I was 17, and I had just broken away from my community. A young Israeli artist at the time introduced me to modern African drawings. That was the beginning!


How might your strict religious upbringing have influenced your artwork?

Art was my way of releasing myself from all the constraints that had been imposed upon me.  Through art, I was able to let go of the negativity I’d experienced as a child. Creating art was part of my healing process.

Your artwork has a distinct “outsider” aesthetic. Have you ever studied art in a formal setting?



You are obviously fond of creating portraits. Who are these people who surface in your drawings?

Many are me – variations of myself at different stages in my life. They’re self-conscious representations of my subconscious. Others are people I encounter in my everyday life or people from my past who remain with me.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes – but I’m frustrated that I often lack the time, space and materials to do a fraction of what I’d like to do.


Can you elaborate a bit on some of the challenges you face as an artist?

Yes. Working to meet basic expenses consumes far too much energy and time. I would like to be able to create when I’m inspired. Our society needs to do more to support artists. Artists are undervalued. Most people don’t take artists seriously enough. They tend to perceive what we do as frivolous or self-indulgent. Living one’s life as an artist is not a choice; nor is it an indulgence.  And the public needs to understand that.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To share beauty and inspire others, while evoking conversation.


What’s ahead?

I would like to continue to create, heal and share. I would also love to exhibit more works in public spaces and in galleries. And I would like to gain more recognition as an artist.

Note: Sara’s installation, Made On a Borrowed iPad — curated by gallery director Hanne Tierney for the Interlude Project — will remain on view through December adjacent to FiveMyles, 558 St Johns Place in Crown Heights.

The interview was conducted and edited by Lois StavskyPhotos: 1  Anthony Disparte; 2 – 4 courtesy of Sara Erenthal; 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky