I adore Sharon VanStarkenburg’s paintings; she’s one of my absolute favourite artists. Not to mention one of my favourite people.
I first met this talented artist when I contacted her last year to see if she would donate a piece to our Homes with Woofs fundraiser. (We were getting designer doghouses built to be auctioned off, proceeds to Ottawa Humane Society, with a silent auction as well.) She was generous enough to do so, and the auction was a huge success.
But her kindness extended past that event: when I approached her about participating in an art exhibition inspired by my new book, Hungry Ghosts, she not only jumped on board but contacted a number of artist friends to get them involved as well. Without her, the exhibition, which will be launched on June 4 here in Ottawa, simply wouldn’t have happened.
Sharon did two companion pieces for the exhibition. (I’d asked for one, so once again, you can see how generous she is, like so many artists.) Here’s The Exchange Principle, along with what it means and how it was inspired by the book:
The elements that I drew on for these pieces in the novel were themes of communication, or lack thereof; vulnerability and strength; otherworldliness and the visceral; signs; and omens. The ghosts were mute, yet tried to gesture and convey meaning and there was also reference to communication with crows. For me the crows refer to both death (carrion) and the spirit world.
In these pieces there are floating hands making shadow birds, also a mute form of communication. These hands are also done in a more illustrative style, as if from a guide on communicating with shadows…. in this piece, the woman is drawing back on a bow, casting a blurry shadow as she is in movement. One crow clamps its beak down on the neck of another. There is a sense of malevolence and foreboding in both. I wanted both figures to be both self possessed and vulnerable, as the murdered women in the novel would have been.
You can check out Sharon’s paintings on her website, but if you want to see them in person, come to the launch on June 4, 6-9 PM at Cake and Shake in Hintonburg! The paintings will be on display throughout the month of June. These two paintings, by the way, are priced at $ 950 each; I’m saving up.
Sharon VanStarkenburg was born in Pembroke, ON in 1974. She earned her B.F.A. from the University of Ottawa in 1997 and upon graduation received the First Place Visual Arts Prize. She received a City of Ottawa Professional Artist Funding grant in 2006 and an exhibition grant from The Ontario Arts Council in 2015. In 2007, she studied at New York University, working toward a M.A. Studio Degree. She has exhibited internationally and is included in numerous collections. She is active in the local art community with various projects and ventures. She is currently represented by Wall Space Gallery in Ottawa, where she also resides and works.