UC Berkeley Art Practice
Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley


Art Practice News Updates

Interview with SECA winner and MFA alum Sahar Khoury.

Sahar Khoury at work, Art Practice Ceramics Lab, 2019

Sahar Khoury at work, Art Practice Ceramics Lab, 2019

We sat down with Sahar Khoury, who received her BA in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 1996 and her MFA from UC Berkeley in 2013. We discuss her recent return to the Ceramics Studio in Art Practice, where she is completing new work for her SECA show at SFMOMA.

Just what is SECA, and how did you become involved with them?

“I was nominated for the SECA and asked to apply. Hundreds of bay area artists are nominated and then they choose a short list of 15-18 to do a studio visit with. You get to meet the SECA members and talk about your work. Then the two curators award a select number of artists (this year, 3) to have a solo show at the SFMOMA. This is blurb from their website: The SECA Art Award Exhibition Since 1967, the SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art) Art Award has honored more than seventy Bay Area artists, supporting them at early stages in their careers. SECA members have the unique opportunity to nominate local artists for the award, tour the studios of finalists, and participate in other special events that connect SFMOMA to the Bay Area art community. “

Tell me about your background as an artist.

“I became an artist in the Bay Area and have been very influence by many of the factors that make up this region. I started out as a printmaker taking community classes at the Mission Cultural Center in the evening with Michael Roman. I have had no formal art training, never taken a drawing or intro to sculpture class etc., but rather got a BA in Anthropology. So my first real studio that wasn't either in my apartment (bath tub to be exact) or in the living room was when I was accepted to UCB. The MFA program really changed everything for me in terms of allowing me the time to truly focus and make huge strides that would have been challenging working a job and trying to make art. But I was almost 40 when I began the program and am so happy I waited so long and had a good 15 years making art within my community. As Anne Walsh told me, the MFA is a golden egg to cherish and it can only happen once in your life so timing is everything for getting the most out of it. “

Do you usually work in clay? What brought you to the medium?

“Clay is one of my mediums. I took Richard Shaw's last class he taught at UCB and of course loved his work prior. But I never seriously made anything in his class as I was too frustrated by all the factors involved. It wasn't until I was out of class, and teaching, and was lucky enough to be in the ceramic studio with the quiet genius Ehren Tool that he slowly shared information with me that helped me tremendously. And also fired all my crappy sculptures so I could learn from my mistakes. “

Do you have any advice for our undergrads?

“Don't take the profession of art seriously but take your studio commitment and practice very seriously. Time spent in the "studio" be it your mind or a physical space is everything and means so much in finding your voice. Also take walks and look around you. There are so many artful moments that can inspire. “

What's your website? Sahar-khoury.com