Checking in with Sharon Shapiro


What are you working on right now? I am currently working on a series of still-figure paintings and drawings that feature lather, as in bubbles and shampoo. I got interested in that about a year ago, first using it as a textural device, a way to break up space formally in a painting, but then I’m also interested in the way it can be used to conceal and reveal at the same time. How it can be both childlike and sexual, how it has those connotations too.

Painter Sharon Shapiro won Best Visual Artist in C-VILLE’s 2009 annual Best Of issue. She says that some of her favorite artists outside her medium include Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry.

Locally, who would you like to collaborate with? Clay Witt would be fun to collaborate with, especially with what I’m doing now with lather, because he uses other elements in his painting that I feel act as a screen or a veil too. He’s very poetic, and he likes language a lot, which I think could be interesting. I’d also love to work with Edward Thomas. We’ve been friends for about 12 years but we haven’t collaborated yet.
Tell us about your day job. I mainly try to sell art, but I also teach. I taught at Randolph-Macon Women’s College, which is now Randolph College, from 2002 to 2004, but it was tough going back and forth, and I was a single mom, and I thought I would probably make the same amount of money teaching in my studio if I could get a group together to paint. So I teach once a week in my studio. It’s not every single week, and I take the summers off. I just got married, and haven’t taught since December, but I’m getting another group going in April. I’ve usually got anywhere from three to seven students.
What music are you listening to lately? I’ve been going back and listening to some old stuff from the ‘90s, like Sneaker Pimps and Portishead. I’m also always getting turned on to newer stuff by my daughter, like MGMT. Stuff that it’s easy to paint to, like old R.E.M., is always good. I also listen to The Flaming Lips a lot.
What is your first artistic memory from childhood? I remember going to this museum in New York, probably the Guggenheim or the Whitney, because it was modern. But we walked in—and I barely remember, because I was like four or five—but an artist had done this enormous sculpture of a spider. It was kind of scary but also fascinating at the same time, because I’d never seen a piece of artwork that large, and I just remember thinking that it was the coolest thing.


ABODE, February 2009: 

A world apart

Do you have any pets? I have a pug dog named Turkey. She’s a good studio companion. My daughter named her.
What were you doing when we called? I was cleaning my studio, which I seem to be doing a lot of these days. I was actually unpacking some stuff. I just had a show outside of Kansas City at the University of Central Missouri, and the works just came back the other day, so I’ve been unpacking the prints, getting the work back on the walls.
If you’re cooking a meal for yourself, what do you make? I don’t really cook anymore, because I married a chef. I used to cook a lot of salad, with everything in it. Accompanying something easy, like grilled fish or pasta.
What’s your blind date dealbreaker? A McDonnell voter. And if they’re into playing Frisbee or water sports, that could be a bummer. Definitely if a person keeps talking constantly about themselves.
Favorite building? The Pantheon. My husband and I just got married, at the McCormick Observatory in Charlottesville, but it reminds me so much of the Pantheon, the dome with the hole in the ceiling. It’s an incredible building. It’s like being inside an eyeball or something.
What piece of public art do you wish you had in your private collection? I’d love to have a Jenny Saville painting. She’s a British contemporary painter, about my age or maybe a little bit younger. She’s amazing. I’d love to have a work of hers, “Hyphen.” I think she just has the coolest collection.
What would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail? I would swim in the coral reefs in Hanalei Bay in Hawaii. I’m not much of a swimmer, but I’m working on it.
What is your favorite board game? Scrabble. Apples to Apples is good too.