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Heart Unlimited
Status Magazine
Published on 11/01/2010

Heart Unlimited

Status Magazine
By Nante Santamaria
Photographed by Patrick L. Jamora
Make-up by Pia Reyes
Artworks courtesy of Tara McPherson

If there is one character that people most likely remember from TARA MCPHERSON's works, it is the image of a girl with a heart-shaped hollow on her chest. Now, the NY - based multimedia artist tells us what she's gonna draw next.

Sometimes lined with spikes, flowing with water, dripping with blood, and lodged with bars - this is the heart-shaped hollow on the chest of a girl so common in Tara McPherson's works, but she's so over it. "I don't wanna rely on the theme as my trophy image," the 34-year-old artist admits. For someone like her who has exhibited her paintings from LA, where she was schooled, to NYC, where she's currently working, it is a difficult icon to part with.

Having illustrated posters for very diverse bands including The Shins, Cat Power, and The Roots, Lady McPherson had been crowned Princess of Poster Art. "It can be a little bit sillier. It can be a little bit lighthearted.." Tara says about these poster drawings, one of them a fingerstached character she made for The Melvins.

She's also counted making toys with Kidrobot and doing comic illustrations for DC Vertigo in her multimedia oeuvre, all seamlessly meshed that some viewers think of her painting as digital renderings. Her bright shades of turquoise and reds will ironically carry various weights of sadness. Call it "gothic" (which Tara defines, laughing, as "bad outfit"), but the art world came up with an apt word for it: pop surrealism. "My work... has its roots in... cartoons, toys, weird TV shows from the 70s and 80s," Tara enumerates. And in her upcoming solo show this October, she's painting men and delving deep into myths.

From the folklore of Japan (which inspired a lot of her many tattoos) and Mexico, she discovered a Moon Rabbit figure. Tara sketches, in words, one of her new paintings which sounds itself like a myth accentuated with lovers, arrows, and of course, the heart. She hasn't heard enough Philippine myths, but when she visited Boracay, she recalls being inspired by the water. Incidentally, it was only her second time snorkeling after a terrifying jellyfish sting when she was five but, when she thinks about it, it's also why she's fond of blues and the underwater world; she's trying to understand that long-standing fear.

And unbelievably, Tara says, "In Boracay, I worked." Its the only way she can come to the Philippines for the annual Graphika Manila as she's busy preparing for the anticipated solo show. "Tonight, I'm gonna go back to the hotel room and paint," she insists. She usually finds herself saying "'Oh, I can finish this part,' and it can take me a few more hours, and then suddenly the sun's coming up..." The plan is to reward herself with a month of break before starting again with other projects.

Besides teaching in Parsons, there's Cotton Candy Machine which, aside from being Tara's studio, is now also a store selling merchandise of all kinds. Tees, pillows, lighters, laptop skins, toys, stationaries - everything is McPhersonized - that is to say she's all for the democratization of art. Tara can only take pleasire in realizing more layers in her work.

She looks at Mark Ryden, a contemporary whose painting can fetch near a million dollars, saying "[He] started working more personally..." just liker her back in the day. So I ask her "How about your [paintings' prices]?" To which Tara responds, "Is there any limit?"