When Sadie Dupuis found herself in a Seattle museum in 2018 looking at German artist Franz von Stuck's 1902 oil painting "Saharet," she saw something she didn't expect.
"It's a just a portrait of a dancer, but there's something very captivating about her expression," says Dupuis, the Philadelphia singer-guitarist who has just released "Haunted Painting," her second solo album as Sad13.
"It's a beautiful portrait and she's a beautiful person, but there's just something very mysterious about it to me," says the 32-year-old musician and poet, who also leads the indie rock band Speedy Ortiz.
"Part of the reason that I hadn't worked on music in the couple of years leading up to starting this record was my dad passed away, and I lost a lot of friends to overdose," she says.
"And just not knowing how to process that and obsessing over it, there was something about the way that portrait looked. I saw some of myself in it."
In "Saharet," von Stuck's dancer is portrayed with ghostly pallor and an enigmatic smile. The gold-framed painting became the inspiration for the simultaneously spooky and quite catchy "Haunted Painting" (Wax Nine (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)), an 11-song collection whose album cover is a portrait of Dupuis by her mother, Diane Dupuis.
"Having that moment of self-recognition kind of helped me find a way into working and writing my way through these obsessive feelings and thoughts," says Dupuis. A timed-to-Halloween animated video for "The Crow," one of "Haunted Painting's" most powerful tracks, launched Friday, along with a new NPR "Tiny Desk (At Home)" performance video in which she and her bandmates appear in costume.
FROM NEW YORK CITY TO PHILLY GRITTY
Dupuis grew up in New York, and studied math and music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before transferring to Barnard College and going on to get a MFA at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
There, she wrote the poems in the 2018 collection "Mouthguard," which she said at the time were written "as self-surgery, extracting darkness from myself before it grew, revealing my icky insides to myself." (She now edits a monthly poetry journal, which she publishes through her Wax Nine record label.)