My work explores feminine beauty rituals and the cultural and emotional baggage that they carry. As a feminist artist, the frequent commodification of contemporary feminism and the conspicuous consumption encouraged by the beauty industry are of concern to me. Through self-portraiture, I seek to find permanence in what is ordinarily washed away, and make public what is normally a “private” beauty ritual, while highlighting the disaffection that results from constantly scrutinizing one’s own appearance.
Marshall Sharpe’s artwork and research focus on the life of his grandmother, Nancy Morgan, who grew up in Memphis during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Because Nancy died before he was born, his work builds a bridge to a grandmother he never met. Using primary sources such as family photos, journals and interviews, Sharpe’s work unpacks themes of memory, privilege and nostalgia in the deep South.
In 2017, Sharpe was awarded funding to take a year-long sabbatical from teaching to pursue his research and artwork full-time. During this time, he moved 5,000 miles from his home in Hawaii to his birthplace in Greensboro, North Carolina, to be closer to the friends and family that could assist in uncovering his grandmother’s story.
In the same way that scientists forfeit entrenched concepts when they are contradicted with empirical evidence, the structures of visual language and culture (such as figurative representation, and icons of political and religious authority) can be reconsidered in instances when outdated codes clash with evolving perspectives and cultural sentiment. Humor, and the misuse of visual conventions that connote power, undermine pretentiousness and communicate humility. I am interested in how dichotomies (such as between virtual and authentic, connection and isolation, benign and profound, progressive and conservative, digital and analogue) can be constructed into cohesive and meaningful experiences that embrace the possibilities of a liberal contemporary society while acknowledging the usefulness of some traditions that progress is built on. As a whole, my work investigates the desire to find and construct meaning, while attempting to undermine dogmatic and categorical approaches to thought and communication through the creation of objects, digital media, and performance.
….more to come