I am fascinated by the conflict between the inner and outer lives of human experience, between the self’s placid exterior and its churning, riotous core. Painting, I believe, is a good medium to both capture and illuminate this tension. There are lyrical and ornate aspects to my work, influenced in part by childhood recollections of color and patterns, but underneath and complementing this colorful surface lurks desperation, fragility, violence, and insatiable desire.
I am drawn to opposing forces—subject matter both gentle and abrasive, clean and dirty, fantastic and real—especially as these play out in the social constructions of gender. My paintings evolve from the personal mythos of my memories. Culled from a range of photographic sources, my subjects are composites, sharing traits both male and female, childlike and adult, animal and human.
As such, there is innocence as well as that which threatens it in my paintings. I mix flirtation with aggression, humor with power, and vulnerability with inner-strength. Often I will present an image of conventional domesticity only to subvert it, thereby displacing and disrupting traditional relationship tropes. I hope to evoke the vicissitudes of memory and circumstance with my paintings, and ultimately provoke the viewer to question what lies beneath the surface.
-Sharon Shapiro, 2012
My paintings are a carefully observed negotiation, manipulated layer upon layer in order to create a work of art as equivalent to the complexity of real life as possible. They are an attempt to control the uncontrollable substance that is oil paint, and the equally untamable expression of the human condition.
Pushing around puddles of this almost living substance, I am endlessly defining and redefining the craft of oil painting to fabricate an animated, breathing image grounded in the recognizable and familiar. Since I am purposefully involved with the contemporary world, I always seek to merge it with a surface that is at once abstractly patterned and textured, and that combines a meticulous respect for realism with the power of the personal image to speak a universal language. I want the subject and its environment to collide through the use of echo and repetition to form a united composition. We are constantly bombarded visually and I hope to infuse my work with a way of engaging the viewer that is both evocatively silent and powerfully commanding.
The artists I have been most influenced by are quite diverse: Caravaggio, Velazquez, Egon Schiele and Kathe Kollwitz. Their paintings share both a profound respect and reverence for the individual with the power and the wisdom to explore those themes that haunt us – man’s strength, resilience, and sensuality together with the possession of an almost shocking clarity in this pursuit. I believe in the transformative powers of painting: that the luminosity of pigment and medium is as manifest as the surface of the soul.
Sharon L. Sprung
The American West, with its brief but romanticized “wild” history has become a dominant characteristic of our collective American psyche. The word “Western” is a category used to describe films, literature, music, art, and fashion. Each of these mediums is devoted to this embellished and romanticized place and time. In my paintings I try to explore the difference between the facts and the fiction, often piecing the two aspects together in the same canvas in order to draw attention to the artificial reality. I combine the past with the present in order to explore how the romanticized imagery and iconic characters are used to sell an idea and stir our imaginations. I use the cowboy and cowgirl and other stereotypical Western themes coupled with pop cultural depictions of the region to reflect my own interpretations of the contemporary West. I am interested in historian Michael Johnson’s phrase, the “Ralphlaurenization” of the iconic West and its characters.