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Interview in Hi-Fructose
Published on 11/20/2008

Volume 9 features an interview by Brad Martin.
You can read the interview transcipt below.

Tara McPherson
By Brad Martin
Hi-Fructose Volume 9

Tara McPherson's art first amassed a huge fan base as a rock poster artist. With her gig posters for Beck, Modest Mouse, the Melvins, and subsequent covers for Vertigo comics. McPherson added a refreshing outlook with her heart wrenching themes, seductive color palettes and clean graphic approach. Tara has since made wildly successful forays into exhibiting at established fine art galleries internationally. Instantly appealing, yet always thought provoking, it is here where her emotional totems are given the proper room to breathe. Born in San Francisco, Tara attended the Art Center in Los Angeles, and now lives in New York City. Writer Brad Martin caught up with Tara before she left on an extensive exhibition and lecture tour of Europe.

A couple of years ago I was visiting some friends in Atlanta, the kind of people that live eight to a studio, but always manage to have room for visitors. Every inch of wall in that place was covered with posters, scraps, traded paintings and a variety of other collected junk. A little off to one side was a screen printed Depeche Mode poster that featured an illustration of a pink-haired nymph with Kiss-via-Care-Bears makeup, a pink tentacle climbing up her body, and a classic wallpaper-style pattern as the background. I told my friend that I would trade him for that poster. He told me to go to hell. There was nothing I had or made that would convince him to give up that poster. I asked him who made it, and he told me "Tara McPherson."

Tara McPherson was already snowballing into fame at that point for her rock posters. They were clean, softly colored and focused more on the quality of the illustration than on some predetermined band aesthetic. They were, in short, everything that rock posters hadn't been. McPherson was bringing new form to a genre that had trailed off into oblivion with the photocopied collage revolution of the 80's and 90's. But thats a story that most people who've read about Tara already know. What about the story of an artist who has just come into some serious fame for her personal work in the last two years?

Tara had just gotten back from vacation when we finally got around to talking about her work, and she was already in the studio. That's where she answered the phone on the early summer Saturday when I called. Thanks to her recent vacation she sounded fairly relaxed, but I could already hear the sounds of her mind getting back into the studio-mode. Explaining her vacation she said, "I was a little burnt out after my solo show and needed some time to relax, but now I'm back up to full speed." The solo show she mentioned so casually was her February 2008 show, Lost Constellations at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York City. And who wouldn't be burnt from a show of the magnitude. Jonathan LeVine Gallery is part of the upper echelons of Pop Surrealism/Lowbrow art and only the best of the best get the coveted solo spots in the gallery's schedule.

Tara didn't seem phased by her skyrocketing notoriety; in fact she seemed inspired by it. She said that she "wanted to focus more on gallery work," cutting back on rock posters a little. She's not at a loss for inspiration either, even after creating such a large body of work for Lost Constellations. "I'm still experimenting," she said, and when pressed about the direction of her new work she admitted, "I've been having dreams of living underwater. I'm trying to conquer my fear of the ocean, and I'll probably explore that in my new work. I'd definitely like to do more sculptures."

It would be an interesting transition to see, an artist whose previous works focus on outer space, moving her frame of reference to the underwater depths. Both environments are vast and mostly unknown to us. They're still places where we can fill the void with our imaginations, populate the unknown with reflections of ourselves. They are also places where emptiness can hold great loneliness as well as great potential. Loneliness is one theme that McPherson mentions often, and the one that her audience has responded to the most. She tells me that many people have contacted her, mentioning that they saw the empty hearted women in some of her paintings and felt less alone in knowing that other people in the world shared in their loneliness.

"I'm a little cut off," she says," which is good and bad. I observe people all the time, and that helps me understand what I want to talk about with my work." Clearly she's been saying the right things to her audience, because her popularity has grown exponentially. She's even found herself faced with non-musical clients for her commercial illustration work. She worked with Ray Ban and Marie Claire this summer of 2008 on a billboard as part of their Project Colorize, which also featured the work of Ron English and Toofly. She's going to continue collaborating with Kidrobot on her line of vinyl toys. She even has a coloring book coming out through Dark Horse called Somewhere Under the Rainbow. Each book comes with a pack of crayons whose colors were handpicked by Tara. All that and she's still going to come out with a new book of her work named after her Lost Constellations solo show. But if none of those opportunities too see her work is good enough for you, Tara will be showing work in a three-person show with Esao Andrews and Travis Louie that opens on Halloween 2008 at Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, Italy.

In talking with her, it's hard the think that she's a world-renowned artist. She's quiet, and doesn't seem that comfortable talking about herself. She seems like the kind of person who is more comfortable observing than being observed. She dreams of living underwater and in the darkness of space, and through her work she extends her hand to other dreamers, bridging the lonely gaps of imagination. From rock posters to art-rockstardom, Tara McPherson is blazing a trail between illustration and fine art that is both personal and universal, and changing the face of the art world in her wake. And all she's really worried about is going into the ocean.