Josh White

For the L.A.-based painter and installation artist Sarah Cain, space is more than just physical; it’s also psychic and emotional. “I try to morph the three,” says Cain, whose site-specific works incorporate existing elements like wind and light and dip into a playfully vivid palette that defies her contemplative nature. Cain developed her style creating work in abandoned buildings, and some of her earliest efforts, along the dirt roads of her native upstate New York, went entirely unseen. A 2004 installation in a haunted squat in San Francisco’s North Beach, however brought her to the attention of curators and gallerists.

Now repped by Honor Fraser in L.A. and Anthony Meier Fine Arts in San Francisco, Cain, who used to believe that a museum setting deadens the soul of a piece, says she’s found “balance” in her relationship to the art establishment. She collaborated with her friend George Herms for a group show at the Orange County Museum of Art this month, and was commissioned by LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division, which is also publishing her first monograph) to do an installation in a former Masonic lodge in Marfa, Texas. On view through November 30th as part of a suite of public projects, “forget me not” takes its name from the flower worn by the Masons and later co-opted by the Nazis. “Supreme Being,” a large three-dimensional canvas bordered in gold leaf, is one of the few components Cain created off-site; its diagonal stripes are a tracing of the floorboards in her downtown L.A. studio. She explains, “I wanted to bring part of my studio with me.”