100 Creatives

Tara Sharpe on How She Balances Curating and Creating Art

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 89. Tara Sharpe.

Tara Sharpe's creative life is all about balance.

"I’ve fluctuated between being a full-time artist and working in positions that could be molded to interact heavily with the arts," says Sharpe, the 34-year-old director of Artelshow. "Currently, I split my time between my own artwork and building opportunities to curate and show other artists' work."

Artelshow (formerly known as ARTELPHX) started in fall of 2013 as a hotel-based immersive art experience. Sharpe would bring together dancers, sculptors, painters, and bands to perform and install work throughout The Clarendon for a weekend. Carley Conder would dance poolside while Daniel Funkhouser would morph a guest room into a spaceship funhouse. Turn a corner or climb a staircase, and you'd find sculptures by Mary Shindell or an installation of neon zip ties by Denise Yaghmourian. Sharpe organized four such iterations of the event, the last of which took place in May 2015.

Now, though, Sharpe has changed up the formula, continuing to bring the arts to unexpected places — or unexpected arts to not-so unusual venues, depending on the occasion. 

For instance, on First Friday, June 3, Artelshow and {9} The Gallery will present a visual art exhibition called "Gods & Monsters," featuring work from more than 40 artists (including Sharpe) and two performances of a site-specific dance work by Cavallero/Gomez/Olson on Saturday, June 11. 

"The focus of my current paintings continues to involve complicating perceptions of beauty and myth, simultaneously empowering some viewers and creating an erotic experience for others," Sharpe says. "I’m a color lover, and consider black a necessity for clothing but death to my own artwork."

When she's not in the midst of wrangling artists or at work on her latest painting, however, Sharpe likes to take solace in short stories. That is, slightly sinister ones. 

"I have a relatively short attention span for anything other than creating art or working on a specific project," she says. "I love dark short stories for this reason. My absolute favorite collection is Roald Dahl’s Omnibus; the way Dahl shifts from endearing childhood sentiments to the sinister with such ease has always inspired me to consider the nature of contrasting effects."

I came to Phoenix with only what fit in my car five years ago. Leaving New York City and losing most of my possessions in the months between there and here played a large role in my ability to let work go once it’s created. I have only one painting left from before moving to Arizona, the only work I truly consider not for sale.

I make art because it’s always been there for me, the only constant in my life I am solely responsible for. It’s a brilliant teacher by action from the self and inspiration from others.

I'm most productive when the odds seem slim and overwhelming.

My inspiration wall is full of corners. It’s my entire house, and I consider myself damn lucky.

I've learned most from memories and expectations of the future.

Good work should always inflict a feeling that there is even greater work to find by its creator.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more national and international integration. We should be encouraging collectors that live in the state to consider Phoenix artists more in their collections. It’s exciting to travel and build a collection, but there is so much wonderful work that needs to be supported here and would complement most out-of-state acquisitions.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the dance performance coinciding with "Gods & Monsters" would take place June 4. The correct date is June 11.
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski