Sarah Dekker, 23, creative spirit cut short
WHEN photographer Christine Alix walked into a print room at the University of Pennsylvania last May and saw dozens of prints covering walls and floors in dramatic splashes of color and surrealistic design, she was stunned. There amid the display was Sarah Dekker, the beautiful young woman who had created the work, probably looking humble and a little baffled by her accomplishment, as if to say, “Did I do all this?”
WHEN photographer Christine Alix walked into a print room at the University of Pennsylvania last May and saw dozens of prints covering walls and floors in dramatic splashes of color and surrealistic design, she was stunned.
There amid the display was Sarah Dekker, the beautiful young woman who had created the work, probably looking humble and a little baffled by her accomplishment, as if to say, "Did I do all this?"
"Sarah is so completely humble, but never fails to create diverse bodies of work that are nothing short of stunning," Christine said. "For this shoot, she didn't tell me what I was photographing, and the second I walked in my jaw hit the floor.
"I mean, imagine standing in this. It's, for lack of a better word, amazing."
Creating amazing works of art was what Sarah Dekker seemed to have been born to do. Her creativity ranged from printmaking and photography to crafting an artistic toolbox for her carpenter father. Nothing seemed to escape her magic touch.
Tragically, she died April 19 after a four-month battle with brain cancer. She was 23 and lived in Mount Airy.
"She was a beautiful, warm, smart girl with the sunniest disposition and outlook on life," said family friend Michael S. Freeman, onetime Daily News city editor who is now senior originator for Exelon Generation Co.
In her short life, Sarah produced a remarkable body of work, at Central High School and as a fine-arts major at Penn. Much of her work reflected her sly sense of humor and unique view of life.
"From the time she was born, she possessed a rare kind of magical quality," said her mother, Deborah Pollak, herself an artist and art teacher. "She had a million friends. You just wanted to be with her."
Sarah didn't seem to realize how her artwork was appreciated. When the Print Center on Latimer Street held its annual show last spring, it accepted four of Sarah's etchings out of some 250 submitted from all over the world. When she walked into the exhibit, she was surprised to see red dots on two of her prints, meaning they had been sold.
It turned out that one of the prints, a portrait of the rapper Lil Wayne, had been bought by the print curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Sarah also made 23 portraits of family members, including one of her father, Lee Dekker, in his garden tending his roses with bats fluttering around with roses on their wings. Her imagination obviously ranged far and wide.
She made a three-week trip to India in her senior year at Penn to take photographs and developed her own pictures.
Sarah graduated from Central, where she was editor of the yearbook, in 2007. She also attended the private Project Learn School in Germantown, where her mother taught art. She graduated from Penn last June with a degree in fine arts.
"She was a beautiful, kindhearted talented woman," said her aunt Sally Pollak. "She had it all together. She functioned at the highest level in everything she did."
Sarah was also a passionate Phillies and Eagles fan. The essay she submitted as part of her entrance application at Penn described a trip she and her father made to an Eagles game. She named her cat Carlos Ruiz, after the Phillies catcher.
Besides her parents, she is survived by a brother, Nick Dekker, and a sister, Maggie Dekker.
Services: Memorial service 11 a.m. June 23 in the sculpture garden of Morris Arboretum. n
The Sarah Dekker Memorial Art Award has been established to honor a Central High School artist. Contributions may be made to Associated Alumni of Central High School, c/o Katherine Morse, Box 30592, Philadelphia 19103.
Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or email@example.com.