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The Art of Sharon Lee

May 6, 2008 - Emily Dimov-Gottshall

Recently, I was at the Blair County Arts Foundation (BCAF) and was able to see one of Sharon Lee’s art pieces up close. Her work is very engaging both in color and subject matter. I wanted to find out more about her and understand what her work means to her as well as understand the deeper meaning of her art.

 

 

EDG:  When and how did you first become interested in art?
SL: I have been interested in art from the moment I could hold a pencil, pen, crayon or marker in my hand.

EDG: How long have you been painting?
SL: I was trained at both Pratt Institute in NYC and Penn State in graphic design. My early goals were to be a graphic designer with a focus on typography.

 

Untitled
2002
acrylic on linen
48" x 55"

EDG:  Who or what influences your art?
SL: Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollack Picasso, and most of the moderns (Kline, DuChamp, Warhol, Basquiat).

EDG:   What else do you do besides paint?
SL: hike, garden, cook, knit, sew, travel, photography, read.

 

EDG:  Why did you decide to create paintings with nature?
SL: Because most of my day is immersed in nature whether I am gardening or hiking or taking photos.

 

EDG What do you think your paintings are trying to convey?
SL: I try to find a unique way of looking at the mundane such as people's relationships with each other, or society's neurosis. Anything with a universal experience.

 

 

Secrets
2006
acrylic on canvas
24" x 36"

 

EDG:  Do you have a special painting?
SL: I like one or two out of three of  my paintings for a while then I move on when a newer painting catches my eye. One piece I did called "The Menstruation Theatre" I am particularly fond of because I could incorporate sculpture made of found objects, painting on a flat surface and puppet making which I had been doing with my daughter at the time.

 

EDG:  Regarding artistic style and attributes of the genre, what makes that a Sharon Lee painting?

SL: color palette, stylized drawing, and the layers of the painting that are developed by working on the negative spaces first.

 

EDG:  What is it about your art that makes it different than other artworks?

SL: Although the ideas I have do not seem so radical to me, I realize that I am more vulnerable in my paintings than many others are (for instance people who do landscapes, still lives or portraits). I try to have a "meaning" to each painting.

 

EDG: What makes this kind of painting "good" to you?
SL: My paintings have three parts to them which I think makes them interesting. First is the color palette and design elements which attract the viewer to look closer, then there's the message or meaning of the painting whether in satire or more straightforward, last there are symbols throughout the painting. Some are impossible to sleuth unless you were told such as a 6-in-1 screwdriver in a painting that would be a "hello" to my friend who helps me work on my house.

 

EDG:   Why did you choose to create paintings in this style?

SL: No choice, it just comes out that way

 

EDG: Recently, I attended the BCAF art show “Oh, so Big” and saw your piece "Almost Dead". I was intrigued by the imagery, color and obviously the message. As I viewed the piece, I felt drawn in by the colors and was surprised to read the message on the piece. It's obviously about racism and how this gets passed down by generation to generation without quite dying away. My question is, how does an artist approach a subject like this without fear of offending the viewer? In other words, have you ever altered a piece to be less intimidating, because the audience might confuse the meaning or intention?

 

For myself, I found this piece interesting in it's use of color and the sculptural elements. I feel the piece asks a question to the viewer...do words die? Are they as powerful as we give them credit? Do we ignore the past or try to understand it and learn from it?

"Almost Dead"

Sulpture 2006

 

SL: The thing about art is that each person brings hers / his own history into the viewing thus making everyone's take on a work of art unique. Yes you could say that piece is about racism because it uses a racist word but my intention is actually more about words, about how they can hurt, maybe how we can create a world where words that denigrate people in any manner religious, racist, sexual, political can lose their place in our language. I also wanted to comment on the act of burying a word-it's a common mentality that if we "get rid" of the words that describe a problem the problem itself will disappear. There are several meanings to the piece and if you asked me tomorrow what my intention was in creating it I would probably have still another thought beyond what I have said today.

 

As far as doing pieces without offending people, well first off when I create art I am not thinking about the viewer. Because I am not trying to sell my artwork in mainstream ways such as crafts shows or through interior designers I do not have to consider the audience. This is a double edge sword though as I have to do other things to supplement my income. This allows me freedom not to consider my audience. Now I don't want to say that I don't care about the viewer-I would not show pieces if I did not care about other peoples opinions but the showing and creating of art (for me) is two different entities. I do know people will be offended about some pieces. That is not why I do things that can be considered offensive but it is a result of not considering the audience while it is made. It is not easy to create personal and sometimes offensive work. I had to let go of many things such as "What will people say", "What will people think of me". My art is what I am thinking of and not censored except in the case where it would hurt some one close to me (like my daughter) I try to keep it personal so the damage is all about me not the people closest to me. In answer to "have you ever altered a piece to be less intimidating?" the answer is a resounding "No". I'm not a mean intended person, I'm just painting things as I am experiencing them. There will always be someone who will be bothered by my work. I accept that. 

 

 

 

 Hermit of Halfmoon Valley
2006
acrylic on canvas
18" x 24"

 


EDG: Can any of your work be seen online?

SL:  I have recently shown work (on my website) at www.sharon-lee.com.

 

Sharon also has ablog she updates (almost) every day.


 
 
 

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