Sara Lee Hughes

The Potluck, Oil on canvas, 44″x72″,2023
There are many layers of inspiration within The Pot Luck-everything from Corningware and Tupperware, fashion from the 1930’s/40’s and the 1960’s, my varied memories from my great-grandmother’s home and my Nan’s home to different references from Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women , Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law , advertising from the 1940’s and 50’s. It is rich in layers.
In some respects it is a companion to my paintings Don’t Rock The Boat and Cake in highlighting the ways in which traditions, ideologies and privileged habits are so often passed from one generation to the next without question.The PotLuck is part of a series of paintings inspired by the mythology of the American Dream and what that looks like from the viewpoint of the Southern narrative.  The cake acts as a metaphor to highlight the ways in which southern traditions, ideologies and privileged habits are so often passed down generationally and accepted without question.
The Pot Luck Study, Gouache on paper, 11 x 22.5, 2022
What will the neighbors think?, Oil on Canvas, 54″ x 82″, Diptych, 2022
What Will the Neighbors Think Study, Gouache on paper, 12″ x 15″. 2022
Portrait of my Father, Oil on Linen, 40″ x 28″, 2021
Don’t Rock the Boat, Oil on Canvas, 50″x92″, 2022
Don’t Rock the Boat Study, Gouache on paper, 15″ x 22″, 2022
Two My Selves on the Backyard Swing, Oil on Canvas, 50″x60″, 2021
“Study for Channel 39″, Gouache on 140lb paper, 18″x18”, work in progress
This gouache study is for a larger painting that functions as a self portrait.  I am watching myself with The Brady Bunch.  
Growing up during the 1970’s and 80’s  with divorced parents, I was heavily influenced by the  families that I watched on tv.  I wanted to have and be a part of what was considered to be a normal family with a mom and a dad. 
This is one more work in the series When We Were 8, referencing my life at eight and my daughter’s life at eight.   The image lends itself to two time periods using the details of the tv’s from when I was growing up but also the size of the wall mounted tv’s that are the current trend. My daughter is the model for myself, centered on the ottoman watching “myself” centered amongst the Brady’s.

Your Dad is so gay! I know. He is a very happy man., 42″ x 62″, Oil on Canvas, 2021
Waiting, Oil on Canvas, 40″ x 52″, 2021
M’s Dream, Oil on Canvas, 58″ x 56″, 2021

artist statement

My current paintings are representational narratives influenced by growing up in the south during the 1970’s and 80’s with divorced parents and operate as metaphors for discovery, other-ness, identity, connection, balance and truth.  As a body of work, they highlight moments, memories and ideas that mark a journey of navigation through the differences between my gay father, my straight mother and the socio-cultural norms of the era and those proceeding. In this work I am most interested in exploring and sharing the connection I had with my father before his death of AIDS, the profound guidance it had on my life afterword and how this personal experience fits into our country’s broader social and cultural heritage.


Sara Lee was born in Dallas, Texas in 1968.  She  graduated Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University) with a degree in theatrical design.   After college she moved to the east coast working as a scenic painter for television, film and theater. In 1995 she began studies in classical drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she earned a certificate in painting and printmaking.  While exhibiting and teaching in and around the Philadelphia area, she began to explore her father’s story and family heritage in drawings.  In 2003 she received a fellowship to the Vermont Studio to develop some of these drawings into large-scale paintings.  Shortly after, she moved to New York and earned her Masters in Painting from Pratt Institute.  Sustaining herself through scenic painting and teaching, her work brought her back to Texas in 2008. 

Sara Lee draws inspiration from the representational painters Antonio Lopez Garcia, Bo Bartlett, Andrew Wyeth , the magic realism of Frida Kahlo and the varied works of William Kentridge. Her background in theatre and film has remained an important influence as she continues to explore and develop the themes of connection, family, loss, balance and relationship in her work.   

Sara Lee lives and works in Central Texas with her husband Michael and their daughter Marlowe.