Local Artist Check-in: Sharon Shapiro

Posted on February 12, 2014 by


Sharon Shapiro has moved around from coast to coast, but this lifelong artist found Cville to be the perfect home. Inspired by the fleeting moments of her everyday life, Sharon’s subjects are predominantly people and animals, and she explores the play between their internal and external emotions and experiences.

There is nothing like seeing art in person, and Sharon’s large scale paintings and mixed media drawings and collages are sure to not disappoint the gallery hopper through her pops of color, intense gazes, and thought-provoking images.

Don’t miss Sharon this month at Second Street Gallery as one of three artists featured in the installation “Threesome.”

DSC03411Sharon Shapiro

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? If not Cville, when did you come here?

I grew up in a small town in the very southern part of West Virginia– Bluefield. After going to Richmond for school (VCU) and spending some time in California, I moved to Atlanta to finish my degree and stayed there for five years. After my daughter was born, I wanted to live in a place more like where I grew up, but with a lot more going on, so Charlottesville seemed the perfect place. I’ve been here for over 16 years.

When and why did you start making art? What mediums have you worked with, or particularly enjoy?

I came to art in large part by default. I was a shy child, not good at sports, and felt out of place and awkward for much of my young life, so drawing and creating things was what made me happy. I took private art lessons when I was in elementary school and it taught me to love taking a blank piece of paper and giving it life. Or as one of my favorite painters Alice Neel once said: “The minute I sat in front of a canvas I was happy. Because it was a world, and I could do what I liked with it.”

I’ve used and continue to use a lot of mediums: oil, watercolor, graphite powder, pencils, charcoal, collage, pencil, and occasionally oil pastels. I used to paint mostly in acrylic. I recently switched back to using oils and I am loving it. I feel like I’ve been reunited with a long lost friend.

Most influential artist as a child? Teen? Adult?

As a child: I don’t really remember specific artists I liked, but I loved Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (the movie) the PBS show ZOOM, Mister Rogers, and reruns of Bewitched.

Teen: Eric Fischl, Paula Rego, David Salle, Jasper Johns, Sue Coe and Susan Rothenburg.

Adult: Jenny Saville, Alice Neel, Wayne Theibaud, Fairfield Porter, Diane Arbus, Dawn Clements, Julia Jaquette, Gerhard Richter, Kristin Calabrese.

What aspects of life excite you, stir your affections, fuel your passions, inspire your art? What influences your art?

Questions like this are tough, because so many aspects of daily life inspire me or give me ideas for paintings. It can be anything really that I take in visually or emotionally; from a vivid conversation with someone, to a fabric pattern on a dress in my closet, to an advertisement in a 1964 Look magazine, to the memory of how my daughter’s face felt next to mine when she was 6 months old.

I think painting is a way to make feelings and thoughts that are fleeting into something REAL, substantial, corporeal. I once titled a painting in my 2nd year of art school “Anchor The Fleeting,” which is a horrible title, but maybe not a bad mantra in the studio.


DSC_0005What message(s) do you convey through your art? What do you want people to take from seeing your art?

I’m not sure I have a succinct message, but I do want to encourage people to question things and look at what might be going on underneath the first glimpse of any situation. I think empathy might be the most underrated virtue, and I try to get in touch with it when I’m making the paintings. How does this eyelid curve? What does that flower petal feel like on the outer edge? When does this lock of hair change direction, when it touches her shoulder or before? I think these specific questions can lead us to a funny place in our unconscious and maybe unlock a warmth and a vulnerability that I hope conveys in my work.

In the larger-than-life portraits, I present the viewer back to her/himself and this complicates the understanding of who is holding the gaze. However, this is really only true when seeing the work in person. That’s why seeing the work on the Internet or in photos is such an inferior experience. I wish it were different, but maybe that’s what makes visual art unique?

What does a day in the life of an artist look like from your perspective?

It’s different for everyone. For me, it always includes coffee, spending some time outdoors if possible, and then getting in the studio to face the work ahead of me.

What makes Cville special for artists of all forms?

For it’s size, it’s hard to beat in terms of how much it has to offer. Natural beauty, a great downtown scene, a good culinary vibe, plenty of bookstores, a strong community theater, one of the longest running non-profit art galleries in the country (Second Street Gallery), and tons of people doing really interesting things with their lives.

Favorite place in Cville to… be creative?

My studio! Although, it’s technically in Louisa.

Favorite place in Cville to… see art?

Second Street Gallery

Favorite place in Cville to… grab a bite?


Favorite place in Cville to… get a drink?


Any other Cville favorites?

Pure Barre and Opal Yoga

What does the not-so-distant future hold for you and your art?

A solo show in late June at {Poem 88} in Atlanta and hopefully a 2-4 week residency this summer or fall. I’ve applied to a few places, so we shall see…

Lastly… Describe yourself in 10 words.

Observant, Sensitive, Inquisitive, Energetic, Obsessive, Passionate, Honest, Scrabble Enthusiast, Two-time Earthquake Survivor.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.