11/11/2013 2:20:00 PM Sharron Porter: Vibrant painter of nature
Snake Woman by Sharron Porter
By Louise Sheldon MacDonald Contributing Art Reviewer
Sharron Porter's paintings of nature in the wild are shockingly alive, as alive and vibrant as the painter herself. She imbues nature - trees and rocks -- with the human attributes of yearning and craving.
Rocks protrude, surging crazily over one another, trunks lean anxiously, twigs grapple rapaciously for water. Colors brighten to their highest hues. Nature is stridently alive in her paintings. She calls them "Textured Landstracts," because of their "abstracted, tactile" quality, but that term fails to express the vitality of these acrylic paintings, their drawing on anthropomorphic traits.
In Riparian Repast, a recent work, actual tree branches rise out of the canvas, groping their way down to the water, thirsting, like human fingers, for relief. A rock wall come vibrantly to life!
Look at Timelines, in which the bulk of sheer rock is split by a dagger-like chunk, inserting itself insistently, pressing open the cleft. Porter's background as a sculptor makes itself subtly known through the rugged molding of the surface with a sandy medium in "textured acrylic," which bursts over the painting's edge.
Anthropomorphic petroglyphs, figures of people and animals, climb the wall at the V-bar-V ranch in the Verde Valley.
The first stanza of the artist's poem, Times Lines, reveals her caring study of the site and its centuries-old evolution.
"The wall was magnificent with dialogue
Carved stories of the Ancients
Interrupted by cataclysm and water,
Cleaving monumental tableau into
Mosaic chapters . . ."
In the recent acrylic painting with texture, "Crash," nature explodes, rollicking in a wild cacophony of color and light. A natural happening, the artist explains: the "cracking" of a snow ridge that reverberates throughout the canyon with thunderous force in an explosion of light and matter. Porter came on the scene while hiking in the Yellowstone National Park last May.
Though these "Landstract Paintings" are innovative and dynamic in style, they are essentially primitive in design, exploratory at best. If Porter continues in this vein, she may wish to create more completely realized artistic works, giving further consideration to balance, harmony and focal point.
Before Sharron Porter began devoting her efforts to landscape painting in Sedona, she created a series in acrylic different in style and technique. "Transformations" presents portraits of women in three stages of life -- radiant, perfect, but somehow bland, lacking individuality.
Sedona Maiden appears apprehensive. Summer Glory radiates joy, while Transformation displays a mature woman satisfied with the completeness of life. Attributes of mid-nineteenth Century Pre-Raphaelite female splendor are present here. Note the red hair, flowing locks, finely rendered features, the sculptured look, the elaborate symbolism: a blue bird, blue eggs.
The Pre-Raphaelites reveled in bright color and insisted on extreme detail. Many of these elements also refer to the gracious world of Art Nouveau, to Mucha and Gustav Klimt. Temples in the background of Porter's painting suggest Hinduism, the spirit of mystical awareness in her poetry.
Sharron Porter likes to zoom into contrasting styles, as she did after arriving in Sedona in 2010. Consider her up-to-date female hipster portrait in tune with Sedona's carefree lifestyle: a plump, shaggy-haired gal in bra and jeans moving out on a bike with snakelike strands of hair streaming into a Western sunset -- all in the brilliant color of the pre Raphaelites!
Then there is the new "Sedona Maiden," Snake Woman with a python on her arm, a prickly pear in her hand, a bold stare in her eye. There is telling evidence of Porter's training in sculpture in the molded features of her subjects, especially in "Harley Pride," a male/female portrait.
A provocative element in the work of this Sedona artist is the immense disparity between the careful rendering of her portraits and the rough-edged, abstracted landscapes that followed.
Early on, Porter had proved herself a master portraitist of the human form. A full-body nude study of her teen-age son reflects his youthful character, his searching soul, the anguish of his uncertainty. Both styles reflect her background with a master's degree in sculpture.
Her landscapes, says Porter, are "extensions of my approach to the figurative work.
Mountains, trees, even rocks and clouds have 'soul' attributes for me. I want the subject matter to be sensual and personal, textural and expressive, like my people. . . "
Her "Landstracts," with their rock-like, textured surfaces, are inspired by her move in 2010 to the Southwest. "It took me half my life to get to live in Sedona!"
In the future will Porter's rough-hewn, highly textured works of today gradually meld with the dreamlike quality of yesterday's work? In her poetry we find an answer: both styles recognize the divine in nature, her underlying inspiration. So let real tree branches fork out of a painting. It's O.K.! It's experimental! Porter's work will continue to evolve in new ways, perhaps eventually less strident.
But in the future her efforts need to become more resonantly thoughtful, more artistically involved. I would urge that she make use of all her capabilities, that she adhere to the core sensibility that she is capable of. Her evident painting and drawing skills need not be abandoned in this artist's creative use of acrylic.
Porter holds a B.A. in Art Education from the University of Illinois, an M.A. in Sculpture from Northern Illinois University. She has worked in most visual arts media in her role as a high-school and middle-school art teacher. She has been a member of cooperative galleries and art centers in Chicago, Pennsylvania and Florida. Her paintings have been seen in solo and group exhibitions in major art institutions in Chicago.
An extensive show of Sharron Porter's work is now and will be on view at the Old Town Center for the Arts in Cottonwood through the rest of this year (633 N. Fifth St.) in the theater where live concerts of southwestern music take place regularly.
In the SAGA Juried Exhibition of 2012 she won the "Best Contemporary Painting" and the "People's Choice" awards in the SAGA (Juried) Invitational Exhibition in 2013.
Recently Porter completed a three-day river trip river by kayak, along with 23 other juried Verde Valley artists, for the Verde Valley Land Preservation organization. She has donated her painting Living River, which will join a traveling juried exhibit for the coming year.
Since she arrived in Sedona, Sharron Porter has become a Signature Artist and Co-President of the Sedona Area Guild of Artists and is on the Advisory Council of the Sedona Art Museum. Sharron Porter's website is www.sharronvporter.wordpress.com
Louise Sheldon MacDonald is a free-lance writer living in Sedona. She has been an art reviewer in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD for over 20 years.