Tara Sharpe on ARTELPHX, Painting Influences, and Her New Body of Work

What happens in the studio, shouldn’t always stay in the studio. Studio Visit Q+A is a weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Phoenix artist and director of ARTELSHOW Tara Sharpe.

Tara Sharpe is probably best known as the mastermind behind ARTELPHX at The Clarendon Hotel and Spa in Phoenix. The fourth installment just wrapped up a few weeks ago, but Sharpe now has her own work to focus on. She has yet to show her paintings in Phoenix in a formal exhibition, but we sat down with her in her home studio to discuss ARTELSHOW, her influences, and her new body of work.

Sharpe arrived in Arizona several years ago after living and working in Brooklyn, New York, for 10 years. It was only supposed to be a temporary stay, but she eventually found a niche here in Phoenix that kept her intrigued. “I got off the plane and I walked outside and the air is so different,” Sharpe says. “It feels encapsulating. I remember walking in the parking lot and feeling like I was making my own space to go through the air.” Years later, the malleable nature of Phoenix’s growing art scene has continued to offer Sharpe that feeling.

One thing that Phoenix has is an abundance of time and space, enabling artists to take risks and build their own communities. With ARTEL, Sharpe is doing just that. The program has grown so quickly over such a short period of time, and Sharpe couldn’t have done that anywhere else. With the idea of ARTEL becoming more clear and polished here in Phoenix, Sharpe plans to continue the event here once a year and bring it to other cities throughout the country.

With painting, Sharpe views herself as a “post-impressionist expressionistic secessionist” with a love for fauvism. That’s a lot of -ists and -isms, but upon seeing the work it begins to make sense. Sharpe is a knowledgeable painter — one who knows her influences very well. One of her biggest influences is 20th century expressionist Egon Schiele, a protegé of Gustav Klimt. Both of those artists primarily depict the nude female form, which is something Sharpe focuses on, as well.

Technically speaking, Sharpe likes to break the rules of traditional oil painting. She uses a lot of mineral spirits and turpentine, making the oil paint function more like watercolor. She paints quickly, building up layer upon layer, resulting in an ethereal sensibility that differentiates her from her influences. She identifies with a lot of post-impressionistic artists, but pulls in the other elements that inspire her: the darkness and the quickness of expressionism, the freedom of the secessionists, and the immediacy and intense color of the fauvists.

The large-scale paintings that she is currently working on are devoid of the figure for now. The colorful forms resemble graffiti with what seems like endless layers of paint. She plans to continue working on these mural-like pieces, playing with abstraction before bringing the figure into the series. Sharpe’s main focus will be the hybrid of this abstraction and her figurative work.

Tell us about your work in haiku format.
If you can't see it
Create it until you can
Don't stop there, not yet

What artist(s) are you really into right now?
Blown away by the quality and image gorging that one may accomplish on Instagram.

Standbys are fairly standard: Egon Schiele, Dennis Oppenheim, Nick Cave, all of the Helnweins, Francis Bacon, Cecily Brown, Chuck Close, Damien Hirst (sorry, Mom), Sue Williams (sorry, Dad).

What are you reading?
I’d prefer to skip this and add more content to other questions.

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched?
I’d prefer to skip this and add more content to other questions.

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I collaborate with them already and enjoy the secret.

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it?

The last show I saw was "Layers" at MonOrchid, which presented the work of Scott Wolf and DadSocks, curated by Nicole Royse. Two stencil artists with different methods were showcased. I think “stencil art” is often classified as simple (considered to lack depth) and it was exciting to see that disproven by a show that’s already being considered a brilliant achievement.

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramovic and why?
I find myself equal parts drawn to Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koon’s ex-wife Ilona Staller (Cicciolina). My interest in Koons himself doesn’t travel too far past just saddling the Balloon Dog (particularly in the Magenta finish) and calling it a day.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
“The memory of what has been done here will make or mar the future”

What are you currently working on?
As an artist, I have several series I am exploring, mostly involving the mixing of the figure, botany, zoology, and abstraction. Most dominant is my interest in that which is not yet realized (sculpture, jewelry and fashion design). As a curator, I am thrilled to expand ARTELPHX/ARTELSHOW and strengthen new formats and locales. I've recently accepted a director position with VelNonArt and look forward to transforming communities with art.

What's your most valued tool as an artist?
3 a.m.

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Mikey Estes
Contact: Mikey Estes