The Full Story
Shirley began painting as part of a Master’s Degree program in Art History. One of the most exciting parts of the program was that studio courses were a requirement to understand the artistic process more fully. Because her area of study was Renaissance Art, she decided to focus her studio classes on oil painting. When she completed her graduate thesis, she found that she had so much more to say with the art that she was creating. She was only beginning to develop her artistic style, and she wanted to continue to explore her creative side. She had found early success with urban abstract painting, and although the semi-abstract style suited her, her subject matter is ever expanding.
Her art, like the rest of her life, is eclectic. She has many interests, and her paintings reflect this. The inspiration for her work is the world that surrounds us. Several years ago, she moved from San Francisco to Truckee California, where she has evolved from urban landscapes to mountain landscapes, among other subjects. When starting a new work, whether in-studio or plein air, she paints the canvas with a palette knife to create a background that has no form. The results of this part of the process are often a surprise. Once the ground is complete, she chooses a subject that connects with it. Sometimes, especially with landscapes, the original background disappears and sometimes it is an integral part of the work. Although much of her education has been focused on oil painting, she loves trying new things and experimenting with new mediums.
Shirley's First Citizens work started when she discovered hundreds of old black and white photos of Indigenous people taken by Edward S. Curtis. Curtis' black and white images capture the intensity of his subjects and often, the truth of their existence. She also wanted to capture the spirit and nature of these incredible people. While not Native American, she feels a connection to her subjects and wants to show the beauty of their inherent dignity, even in the face of the offensive treatment they continue to experience. They simultaneously emerge from, and disappear into the canvas, as Native Americans are increasingly disappearing. The artist returns to this series over time to find new ways to connect to the subjects and Edward S Curtis.