Interview with a Visionary Artist – Sharon Stelluto
By Kelly Kurdyukova of SoulBloom
For our sixth edition of Interview with a Visionary Artist we spoke with Sharon Stelluto, on her personal style, her inspirations, and the creative process. It is always insightful to peek inside the mind of an artist, and we especially enjoy learning about the many paths that these creative individuals have walked.
What does art mean to you?
Sharon: It is in our nature to create as human beings. I have always felt it necessary to make art throughout my life, as inspiration constantly surrounding me compels me to want to create. I have moved a lot in my life, even as a young kid. I always turned to art as a grounding experience. It was a solid force in my world that rooted me when everything seemed to be in flux. I went to 9 different schools and lived in over ten different locations. Frequently being the new kid, art was always my best friend, no matter where my feet would tread. It brings me peace, healing, aligns me to my truth and purpose and shares a window into my soul’s imprint. Art is an expression of my soul that shares my innermost worlds. It’s personal, and the more personal it is the more universal it can be. I believe art can inspire people on subtle levels to create a new world, a new hope for the future and a new way of being in connection to yourself and others. Art speaks the truths untold by a society and is often a representation of where we currently reside or hope to transcend to as a culture.
How long have you been making art?
Sharon: I’ve been making art since I could hold a pencil. Being a recovering Catholic, my parents took me to church every Sunday growing up. Around the age of four or five, I would bring my crayons and paper to make art at church. I don’t remember much of what was said in those masses but I made some really awesome drawings with the pews as my drawing desk. As I got older, I would fill sketchbooks front and back, drawing whenever I had a moment. I now have over 20 sketchbooks in my collection and it’s pretty wild to see the changes over the years. When I was 15, I apprenticed with a professional figure painter in Charlotte, North Carolina. I worked in his art studio and his art school. He taught me more about business of art and how to draw/paint the figure. I made my first oil painting in his studio.
I went on to Art School at SUNY Purchase in New York studying visual arts and painting, it was sweet to be so close to Manhattan and soak up the art scene of New York. A lot of my earlier work was shaped by the flavor of Manhattan and graffiti art. Although I was a forest fairy at heart, there was a certain edge about me that pulled in the urban inspiration into my work. Taking black and white photography in school, I used to walk around Manhattan with my huge metal Minolta film camera around my neck. I loved people watching and pulling the city in through images. My inner fairy soon craved nature; I then transferred to SUNY New Paltz to finish with my BFA in Painting. The Hudson Valley sucked me in with its beauty. Years later, I found myself volunteering for the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappingers Falls. After a couple years of volunteer commitments, I became the Hospitality Manager and Event Coordinator for CoSM. I continued my art making and began developing large scale art installations and floral arts for all their large events. After several years with CoSM, I had emerged more into a live artist and was ready for new opportunities.
I moved to Arizona about two years ago and my work has evolved with the magic of the desert.
What is your creative process?
Sharon: I often get visions or nudges of what to create next, seeing them in my dreams or just downloads into my psyche of full pieces. I will sketch the new ideas to layout the composition and forms.
Sometimes I will need reference photos for my work and will set up a photoshoot. I’ve been working a lot with nebulas for background layers. I’ll start with this layer and slowly build upon it. Each layer taking patience and time, since I mainly work in oils. I’ve tried venturing away from oils but it always pulls me back. Oil paint is sexy and paint strokes feel like liquid satin. My brush is happiest in its company.
While creating a piece, I usually go through a process of “Wow, this idea is amazing!”, then “This doesn’t look like what I thought it was going to look like” and “Eh, it’s not so bad”, and then “Oh my god, this looks awesome!!” I usually despise and love the piece repeatedly before I’m finished. Any journey requires a deconstruction and reconstruction. Every painting is a journey for me, one where I come out learning so much more.
Is being an artist your main profession?
Sharon: It is my main profession in my heart. Each day I get closer to being a full time artist. I work freelance on the side at the moment. I’ve had to readjust my work commitments over the years. As I realize I put my all into any job I have, sometimes at the expense of my own passions. Although I believed in the mission at CoSM, I worked harder there than I ever have in my life. I decided since moving to the desert, I’m committed to pursuing my art in its fullness.
What are your goals and aspirations for yourself as an artist?
Sharon: It is important to me to do what I love. I have plans for showing my work more frequently here in the desert and other locations. I would like to continue to pursue live painting events, I love the flow of connecting to others while creating.
I also have had a love for street art over the years and am working on landing opportunities for murals and larger scale works.
I also do “True Self Portrait” commissions. Having a healing practice, I incorporate my art with healing. I paint intuitive soul portraits, whether it’s for someone’s own journey, their friend, family member or someone who has passed. I love working with people in this way and seeing how the portraits affect their lives.
How would you describe your art?
Sharon: My work focuses on my greatest pre-occupation and that is higher consciousness, nature and the healing path. I’ve had an obsession with nature and flowers my whole life. My side passion is floral arranging and creating large nature installations. Flowers are one of the most sensual looking parts of nature and an exquisite art of creation with so many types, colors and shapes. I also love infusing my work with imprints of galactic references and geologic references, sharing our deep connection to the earth and the message that we are one in the same. I stumbled upon a great quote by Friday Kahlo recently “I don’t paint my dreams, I paint my reality”. I resonate deeply with that, as my own personal story is conveyed in my work. It is what I know best and in sharing my own truth, shadows and all, others may see their own mirror in that. Whether it is an amorphous shape, a Buddha like statue or a representational image of me, it has a flavor of self-portraiture.
Which artistic movements do you take inspiration from? Which artists?
Sharon: When I was in college and the visionary art genre was still very small, I didn’t even know that it existed. I remember learning art history, being shaped by art school and the New York art scene, always wondering if there was something more in the art world. It felt that the main stream art scene was lacking something. It was lacking spirit. Learning about visionary art or art that conveyed consciousness, felt like I had a platform for the type of art I was interested in creating.
I’ve found inspiration over the years from artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe with her revolutionary, sensual flowers, and Frida Kahlo with her raw honest portrayal of pain, Ernst Haeckel with his alien looking scientific drawings, and even Caravaggio taught me so much about how to paint light on a figure. I’m in awe of the access to modern day artists in this age of social media and the wealth of inspiration I find there as well.
What inspires you?
Sharon: I draw inspiration from everything in my life but nature is my greatest teacher. One of my deepest joys is visiting arboretums, parks or botanical gardens for inspiration. I had the gift of working at the desert botanical gardens when I arrived to the desert. I connected so much with the land out here getting to see the sunrises and experience the new animals and plants was amazing. There is also nothing like the smell of the desert after it rains.
I am also deeply fascinated by the alchemical path of healing. I studied the modality of Violet Alchemy Healing for over ten years. In my healing work I do sessions on intuitive energy work and the psychology of the energy field. The subtle energies of our life experience inspires me as it is the way I live and perceive the world. It shapes the framework for my art and I’ve often shocked myself at the intuition behind the images.
Ultimately I paint what heals~ the body, nature and one’s soul.