Sharon is an artist who is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I met her online through curator and art promoter Robert Curcio. Sharon’s paintings and sculptural works http://bartelclements.com/ have a very organic and transformative quality. What else would you expect from an artist based in Santa Fe? Here’s our chat …
“… Art and the expression of oneself have been around a long time. I think it's man's and women's innate desire to make their mark. By that, I mean marks on walls, paper, canvas, etc. It's been part of our evolution as humans ...”
MICHAEL: Hello Sharon, Your work is quite intriguing. I want to chat about your paintings, but first, let's talk about your sculptural works. What inspired "The Torso Project"? They look like molds of actual female torsos.
SHARON: Hello Michael, First of all, I want to thank you for this opportunity to express myself about my work. To answer your question, first, let me say I work subjectively and conceptually in my work.
I've had the opportunity to travel to China and see the Terra-Cotta Warriors in Xi'an. It was a very moving and powerful experience for me. The actual idea came to me out of the blue a year or so later. I had actually been wondering why throughout history, a woman is usually not seen as a warrior, there are exceptions of course. I then started thinking of the women I know and what really makes a person a warrior in the broadest sense of the word.
I've always felt women are stronger psychologically and more mentally tough in many circumstances, although maybe not physically stronger than men. No offense Michael (Ha, Ha!). So the idea of the woman as warrior evolved into using an actual representation of the woman's body. What could be more apparent than her upper torso? Of course, there are women who've had the unfortunate tragedy of breast cancer in their lives. These women are real warriors. The actual mold of the torso uses lasted wrap for the front and back, and then constructed together as one complete torso. When dry, hardened and removed, it can then be viewed as a shell or shield of protection.
MICHAEL: Very cool. Do you feel that you've had to be a warrior to survive as an artist? Do female artists have to be warriors more than their male counterparts?
SHARON: Interesting questions Michael. First, I'd like to say that there are twelve or more archetypes that people may or may not carry in their psyche. Background and heredity are just two factors that influence these to develop. In the past, I've never thought of myself as an artist or warrior per se. A person can be a warrior about many things. I've always had a lot of determination. I feel it's the strength and determination to overcome and change circumstances that brings out the warrior archetype. So in that respect, yes, I am a warrior and an artist. I'm still here and now showing what I hope are these qualities in others, in my torso project.
Each woman artist has their own story, with failures and successes. In a male-dominated art world, that can be a long road. To answer your question, yes, I believe they do. Qualities of a woman warrior as an artist, like in any field, depend on personal aspirations. But in the end, it's really the journey that is important and how their art can affect others’ lives.
MICHAEL: Your sculptural objects seem to be more about reinvention than invention. If we look at old objects in a new way, we can give them new life. No?
SHARON: I think that's right Michael. I would say that's part of being an artist, turning something old into a new vision. Resurrection might be another word for it. I like the challenge of seeing the mundane transformed. Familiarity can sometimes breed contemplation.
At times, I've referred back to certain materials in my work. I guess you could say they’re something like a reference point. So in a way, that's reinventing as well. Sewing patterns appear in a lot of different aspects of my work. I guess you could say it's a common thread! Seriously, I like the transparency and layering they can give me. I also like the idea one might get from the use of patterns and the idea of the use of tire tracks in my work like, "Reinventing the Wheel."
They also both have a reference to time. Sewing patterns are more personal. There's a history to them. I actually have women who've been models for my torso project contribute their old sewing patterns. The tire tracks also have a history, but they also can be seen as movement through time. Actually, these objects were fun for me. Their inspiration came out of the blue and I acted on that. Looking at an object and seeing a new purpose, a new meaning, probably stems from my childhood curiosity. As I look at them now, both have been thought-out additions to my work.
MICHAEL: I get a strong sense of evolution and transformation from your work. Even though the works I see are "done," they still seem to have a "work in progress" or ever-changing feel to them. I don't know. Am I off track?
SHARON: No Michael, you're not off track, and yes, I want to have that feeling of evolution and transformation in my work. To me, it keeps a sense of freshness in what I'm doing. At a certain point, I can deem it "finished," but at the same time, there is always that possibility I can keep working on it, and for now, have labeled it "finished.” It's an open-ended discussion as it were - an opportunity for me to continue the dialogue. The viewer can join in that dialogue. I feel there’s always room in my work for experimentation. My work is a journey. My materials might change. My thought process might be different. I believe we should be in a state of flux, constantly moving through time and space, changing perspective. I hope I'm not the same person I was yesterday. Isn't that one of the reasons we're here? To change and grow?
MICHAEL: The fact that you're in Santa Fe makes me smile. Your work seems to be such a product of that environment. Raw, evolving, bare and natural yet elegant and serene. I just want to pack up and buy 300 acres and build a ranch/gallery/home in New Mexico! I like to fantasize. What's it like there? How does that environment inspire and affect you?
SHARON: That's funny Michael ! I like to fantasize too! I live on eight acres, in a beautiful area called Tesuque. It’s about fifteen minutes north of Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a small town relatively speaking; under 100,000 people. The weather is great, four seasons, but dry and not severe. There's plenty of sunshine and the light, as you may have heard, is beautiful. People are friendly. There's a great natural, scenic beauty. I think the area has a great energy too. Some days, it seems magical and I have to pinch myself! It's very quiet, so I really enjoy going to New York City and getting my NYC fix!
Well by now, I could probably get a job with the local tourism bureau! The clouds are very dramatic, as are the sunsets, so I have to say the dramatic color has influenced my work. It's a very changeable weather pattern as well. Seeing nature up close all the time has its effect on me as well. It's easier to take notice of how patterns in nature occur. The use of sewing patterns has been a symbolic presence in my work as I mentioned earlier. Patterns are part of our identity and everything found in nature.
MICHAEL: New Mexico also strikes me as a very spiritual place. Would you say your work comes from a spiritual place or is it more intellectual or emotional?
SHARON: Yes, I would say my work does come from a spiritual place. I've always believed for me, spirit comes first and then all else is after that. I also think the conception of the idea can come from a spiritual place. I could say the idea came from "out of the blue," but that "blue" can be termed spiritual as well. I can only speak for myself here, but I also think that art is a spiritual journey.
The act of painting especially for me, brings this to mind. In many instances, there is no preconceived drawing of what I will paint. I may have certain things in mind, but the actual process evolves as I work. This is where influences such as nature's use of color, light, etc come into play. That said, I work with my sculpture on an intellectual, conceptual basis. The actual idea may have come "out of the blue," and most likely does, but the actual process is much longer and I know what the result will be when finished.
I feel the emotion is usually always there. I feel it's an important factor because for me, it's hard not to show emotion when it's something I love doing and it’s very important to me. Also in my sculpture, I work with women 's torsos, which adds another dimension to what I'm doing. There is an emotional connection on some level. There is also the emotional transformation in the woman as she sees her torso develop into a warrior.
I would have to say I use all three places. Thank you, Michael. This is something I haven't really discussed before now.
MICHAEL: What would you say is the biggest lesson you've had to learn as an artist?
SHARON: I think there are two lessons I've learned as an artist that are important to me; perseverance and resiliency. First, perseverance is never giving up, not only on your goals, but yourself and what is important in your life. This also means not sacrificing oneself in the process. I've personally felt the need to create something larger than myself. Something that is important enough so the ego isn't in the way.
The second lesson concerns resiliency. Rejection is difficult for anyone in any field, but I feel it's especially difficult for an artist. An artist basically gives birth to their creation. It's a very personal living entity, so to speak. I feel now that something one creates needs to be let go at some point. Whether it's sold, put aside to be worked on later or given as a gift. The fulfillment that I receive from the creative process far exceeds any frustration from temporary setbacks. The keyword is temporary.
MICHAEL: Finally Sharon, most people won't ever buy art and not many others will ever really consider art a part of their lives. What's the point of art?
SHARON: Well, I think we could go back to the cavemen and ask that question! Seriously, art and the expression of oneself have been around a long time. I think it's man's and women's innate desire to make their mark. By that I mean marks on walls, paper, canvas, etc. It's been part of our evolution as humans. Art is a language and each artist is its interpreter. It's a communication skill. It's up to the viewer to keep the dialogue going. It's also up to the viewer to make a decision to buy or view art in the first place. Sure, it's nice to get recognition and money for what is created, but that isn't the answer either. At some point, art needs to have a life of its own, and if then no one ever sees it, it's ok. Art is all around us. A person doesn't have to buy art to appreciate beauty, it's everywhere. It can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It's all good.
MICHAEL: Yes, it is. Thanks Sharon. Lovely chat.
SHARON: Thank you again Michael. Much appreciated.
Check out Sharon Bartel Clements at http://bartelclements.com/.