Chicago visual artist Sholo is working with Denise on the music/art combo show “The Flame,” which uses lyrics inspired by the voice of The Statue of Liberty and Sholo's artwork to explore shared sacrifice and what it means to be welcoming in America.
Sholo works mainly in mixed media and is inspired by the organic shapes in nature, As New City recently raved: “her works are splashed with cheeky wit and sumptuous color, and she has a gorgeous sense of line.”
Ahead of Denise's upcoming performance of “The Flame” this Saturday (July 10) at 7:00 p.m. at the New Rhythm Arts Center in Chicago, Sholo explains how she was initially inspired by art, how art school can be both inspiring and deflating, how she is relatively late to colors, and why women and female faces are featured prominently in her work.
The image on the left is "The Flame," created specifically for the show. The other images in this story are just some of the images that also appear in the show.
DEELAGEE BLOG Do you remember the first time any kind of art hit you in a way that moved you?.
SHOLO: Okay, so this is so funny, this is an easy one. My. I think I was probably like eight or nine. And my parents had a big library book collection when we were kids. And I found this really cool book about “Where do babies come from?” And inside was all this amazing figure drawing done in watercolor. And really cool black line work. And I was hooked. I fell in love with a female body from like that point on.
Did the colors jump out at you as well?
SHOLO: Yeah, there were lots of blues and purple and yellow, because I'm assuming they wanted to make it seem so beautiful. Like having a child. So yeah, and I just remember always leaving that book there. And going back to it.
Interesting because your work can be, and it often is very colorful. And how you use … you mentioned black lines in that specific piece and how you use black in a lot of your work to contrast with some other colors in a powerful way. Orange and yellow especially jumped out. But if you go deeper, there's blues and greens that contrast with black.
SHOLO: I guess first I want to say it's so funny, because I haven't been working in color all that long. I really love black and white and ink … just simple drawings. I love color, but it took me a long time to figure out what I loved about color. And when I think about color, it's an energy thing. For me, it's setting a scene for somebody so there's something to think about. So, I love the color black and that whole series that you're talking about the faces got started because I was just sitting there one day thinking like, “how does it feel to be black?” You know, just be black. So, I started … a lot of those images are of my daughter. I use her face for reference. And the black represents just the vastness of my existence. And I don't want to necessarily say “me,” but just being black as being vast. The oranges are the fire and the passion that people of color have. And then the yellow to me represents intuition and light. And if you take your time to get to know somebody, what do you got to find? I should mention that a lot of my color inspirations come from the 60s and 70s music posters and fashions, both current obsessions.
You said it started more in black and white, then you mentioned color was something you had to figure out before you really wanted to put it down.
What was it you needed to figure out?
SHOLO: You know, it was more like, when you go to art school, they teach you dark colors, recede … light colors, blah, blah, blah, and color theory and all of that. And I've kind of always gone against the system with that. So I made up my own rules. But once I realized that by following some of the rules, you got cool results. I've always known I love blues and earth tones, for sure. But it was just learning over again how they work together. So it took only a little bit of time to figure that out. And then I was like, “Okay, I got this.” And then my references were things in nature. Nature does not care what goes together, it gets put there and it works. And so that's like, screw the system and following the rules (laughs).
That brings up an interesting comparison to music. There can be a hesitancy for aspiring songwriters to take music theory classes for fear of having their creativity drummed out of them, that is, there are rules to follow.
SHOLO: When I was in art school during critiques, people hated my artwork. They hated it. It was kind of a time when abstract art was really popular. And I didn't ”get” abstract art. I was like, “what, aren't we just splashing paint?” I love abstract work. I think I'm a little envious, because I don't know how to do abstract. And if I do it’s by accident. And it's funny, because the teacher would be like, well, we asked for this, and “wow.”. So, it's funny how that works.
Another recurring theme in your work is women. You mentioned that your daughter was the subject of one series, but it seems to be broader than that, right? Women and female faces are a huge part of a lot of your work.
SHOLO: Yeah. And I used to do a lot more, like figure drawing, which hopefully will come back. It's a little bit there. But right now, I'm a little obsessed with just faces.
Where does the obsession come from right now?
SHOLO: I just think because women are powerful and intuitive. The body is beautiful. It's a temple. And I think there's just a lot of ways to express it and the female form has a lot to do with nature, you see it a lot in nature. That's another one of my passions … putting nature into my art. I just feel like the woman's whole body and the energy is all very organic, like in nature, so I just can't i can't get enough of it. And I still have not hit any kind of iceberg of where I want to be with that.
The project you and Denise are working on is “The Flame.” She is using the voice of The Statue of Liberty to explore shared sacrifice and what it means to be welcoming in America. How do you see Lady Liberty?
SHOLO: I see her as being multifaceted … every kind of female entity that you can think of. She's everything. She's a man. She's a woman. She is children. She embodies all of that. I mean, that's exactly like what the drawing was, you know, it was very vibrant and fiery. And it's protective … It's knowledgeable. I just feel she's all of that.
The visual is stunning.
SHOLO: There's definitely a piece of Denise in there because said she wanted wild colors and something to embody “The Flame.” And I just want a side note. It's amazing working with Denise because she's visually motivated. She's just kind of this force and I like her vision … I always enjoy watching her on her vision quest and being a part of them.
The feeling is mutual!