Feature in Atomica MagazineAtomica Magazine
Published on 1/01/2003
Feature article by Rosette Gonzales called "Toys In The Attic". Read it below. Atomica
"Toys in the Attic: The Art of Tara McPherson"
Article by Rosette Gonzales
January/ February 2003
Working out of her Hollywood studio, Tara McPherson is surrounded by her past and current projects, as well as countless silkscreen promotional posters for bands and various venues. Numerous tattoos adorn her entire body; a Hokusai geisha poses on her right arm with Victorian patterns in the background, while Celtic armbands wrap around both arms. Fire and water dragons crawl down her side and leg. Her hair is jet black and her eyebrows are finely and distinctly arched.
Yeah, Tara digs rock and roll. But what's less obvious is that Tara, an emerging artist in the bourgeoning Los Angeles art scene, draws inspiration from Renaissance and Mannerist portraiture.
Like portrait painters of long ago, Tara immortalizes her subject by capturing their spirit, a moment in time, or a distinct emotion. She prefers to paint people that she knows, creating intimate portraits that are mesmerizing and unnerving.
In two portraits entitled THE INTERACTION OF SEXUAL ATTRACTION, Tara probes the relationship between her former roommate and his ex-girlfriend. Each subject holds an object that represents his or her love/hate relationship. The guy holds an album from The Clash in one hand while the word "LOVE" is tattooed across the other. The girl holds a record entitled "SMITTEN COMPANY" and has the word "HATE" tattooed across her fingers.
Tara paints a friend named Lon, holding a flower and wearing a white bunny suit. The childhood memory of a girl that teased him, leaving him "stunned and confused," continued to haunt him. Lon exemplifies Tara's incorporation of toys as a recurring theme in her work. According to Tara, toys can add personality to an image. They also represent childhood; a beautiful, innocent time in our lives. Toys remind us: "as we grow older, we grow further away from that innocence." Toys can signify a memory from childhood or a childlike characteristic that lingers into adulthood.
This relationship between toys and subject is also evident in the PALLOR OF THE PEARL. A clever variation on a familiar theme, Tara's Madonna is a contemporary woman with modern attire and tattoos. Instead of the baby Jesus, Tara's Madonna holds a teddy bear with a broken leg, which has been her friend's childhood toy for twenty- seven years.
Tara also draws her inspiration from poetry. Early on, Tara would extract lines from her roommate's poems to develop themes for her work. Occasionally, she draws upon excerpts from her favorite writers such as Dante or Hemmingway as sources for ideas.
"I'll sit down with a phrase... and brainstorm... and go off from there and through that process of writing, come up with a really strong concept as far as imagery." Tara admits that viewers may not appreciate her inspiration immediately, but hopes that some will feel a deeper connection that goes beyond aesthetics.
The artistic communities in Los Angeles and the Bay Area are increasingly recognizing Tara for her thought-provoking paintings, which have been shown in numerous galleries, including a highly successful show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery. Not surprisingly, Tara has received several commissions from art collectors and industry types with an eye for narrative portraiture.
Tara has also achieved great success with her commercial illustrations. Tara's work for several magazines quickly established her as an illustrator in demand. Like her gallery paintings, Tara's editorial illustrations reflect her affinity for fine art, weaving elements of classical portraiture in commercially driven illustration.
Delving further into the world of commercial design, Tara recently created the imagery for ALCHERA, a new perfume from London. Sharon Bales, the creator of ALCHERA, wanted to illustrate the concept of "The Goddess" rather than rely upon ever ubiquitous supermodels. Tara's illustration for the perfume features four goddesses and Tara painted each one of them in a way that is both classical and thoroughly contemporary.
"She interprets things very well... she has great vision," describes Bales.
Jason Holley, a professor of illustration at the Art Center, says that Tara "kicked ass" at the curriculum's early foundation of classical art training. But according to Holley, Tara had bottled up individuality that was just waiting for the right moment to emerge. Evidently, that moment is now.
Tara agrees. "I didn't really force a style when I was in school. When it evolved, it was really natural and beautiful." She also admits she held back at first but created what she felt and has progressed ever since.
Holley notes that Tara also has excellent craft skills. She applies those skills to construct unique frames for each of her paintings. "She was always good with materials; a really competent craftsperson. It was just one other kind of area... another surface that she could be painting on."
Although each painting is figuratively strong on its own, Holley likens the frames that Tara constructs to extensions or "borders to her paintings" that compliment her style. Tara says her frames emerged out of a strong "instinct" to work and create. Now the frames are a part of her portraits and help her to envision each painting as a work that will hang in someone's home.
Tara has successfully fused the classic with the contemporary and in the process, mesmerized artists and the commercial world alike. Whether it's an editorial assignment or an illustration of a close friend, tara always returns to portraiture. Her focus on a single subject allows for a simple yet symbolic story of life. By blending modern themes with portraiture in a unique and creative way, Tara's work sheds light on the subject's distinct personal history and character. Her work requires the viewer's active participation to discover the connection between object and subject. This connection spans beyond obvious aesthetics to expose a painting that is not simply a portrait of a person but of their story, revealing a true and intimate likeness of being.