The Usual Terror, 2019
Introducing Cult of Sharon, Austin, TX Collagist
/DRI:M/ARTZ: So, you hail from Austin, Texas. I have been living as an expat in the Middle East for 10 years but bought a house in Fort Worth a few years back. I have only managed one visit to Austin on my yearly (well, pre-pandemic!) trips back to the US and mean to spend some more time exploring that area. We’ve heard it’s a really liberal city. Is this where you grew up or did you migrate there? What’s the art & cultural scene like?
CULT OF SHARON: Austin is a very liberal city, at least for the state of Texas. People usually compare it to Portland, though we are the Live Music Capital of the World, so I also see similarities between Austin and New Orleans. Food, music, art, culture are all a very big part of living in Austin, Texas. I've lived in, or near, the city for almost two decades now. DIY/thrift/reuse culture is also HUGE in Austin, and there are a lot of great cheap, and free, resources for artists of all types.
DA: Did you have an artistic background growing up? How much of it is what you’ve been taught? What have you learned on your own and what tools have guided you?
COS: I was well into college before I discovered collage art. Previously I had always thought of myself as a writer, and a hundred percent of my creative energy went into writing short stories and poetry. Freshman year of college I introduced myself to online blogging and Photoshop, which I used to create images for the stories and poems I was posting online, usually to Deviant Art or LiveJournal. Through those resources, and later Flickr, I was introduced to the type of collage work that I currently do. The transition from digital collages to paper collages was fairly fluid and natural, and now I mix the two mediums pretty regularly.
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Top Panel - The History of Agenda, Poem / Nerve Ends, 2019 / Waiting Room, Poem
Bottom Panel - Pope on Tv / Alley of Diminishing Perspectives, 2019 / Night Sweats, 2019
DA: I’m dying to be in a place where I can have access to a variety of paper cuts. Do you have a favorite source material and where do you find it? Do you scan the originals? How do you organize your materials?
COS: I'd say at least 80 percent of my work is analog. Pre-pandemic I'd source new materials about once a week, or once every two weeks. I mostly use local thrift shops (such as Austin Creative Reuse), Half Price Bookstore (for vintage magazines), and the local Goodwill Outlet that sells used books for 20 cents a piece (!!). My personal rule is to not spend more than five or ten dollars on a single book. I rarely make exceptions. Aside from sketchbooks and glue, all the material I use is secondhand. As a collage artist I deal mostly in scraps of paper, and the first thing I do with a new (used) book or magazine is start cutting it to shreds. Some images I remove full, other images get cut down into smaller pieces and sorted. Small paper scraps go in a container, large images go in a folder, etc. My process for creating a new collage starts with me shuffling through those containers of paper. I rarely ever start an artwork with a finished product in mind. I may have a specific image or two that I want to use when I begin, but hardly ever a full idea. If I finish a collage and like it enough to want to post it, then I scan it using a generic printer/scanner, and I touch it up in Photoshop.
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Cult of Sharon's Studio Process & Organization
DA: On your Satchi profile it says you operate out of The Cabin Commune in Austin. Can you tell us about your experience creating in a co-working community? I have read that these spaces are more like a social movement because of the values that the co-working movement aspires to.
COS: The Cabin Commune has only a few people using it since the pandemic started. The record label that I create art for, Absolut Shit Records, records out of the Commune. The pandemic has basically shuttered any collaboration efforts; collaborations have been relegated to sharing ideas over text messages. I still create artwork for the record label's new releases, but with no events, some of the collaborations that had been planned are delayed indefinitely. For instance, we were planning to design more immersive, curated spaces for the events the label puts on, but that will have to wait until (if) society goes back to normal.
DA: I see you are on Ello, the Creators Network, which is a global community of creative artists. I got a personal invite when they first came out and signed up but have been terrible at updating. Instagram has been my go-to but I prefer Ello’s business model because it is an ad-free alternative to other social networking sites. What’s your thoughts about social media in general and what drives you to post your collage work across different platforms? How do you approach your curation and where do you see it going?
COS: I use Ello mostly to house additional backups of my images. For the most part I use Instagram to share my artwork and to look at other peoples' artwork. I started using Instagram a couple years ago after Flickr shut down. I don't like using Mark Zuckerberg's platform but Instagram is currently the best platform (in my opinion) for sharing art. Curation for me boils down to the same thing that collage does: balance and contrast.
DA: How did you land the gig as the in-house artist for Absolut Shit Records? What’s it been like creating album covers? Do you approach the creative process differently than your personal work? What role does music play in your life and how does it inform your work?
COS: I landed the job through pure nepotism. A new friend, who had just started a record label, saw my artwork through social media posts and requested I design something for them. Five years later, they're still asking me to design the artwork for a slate of artists. Some of the artists I collaborate with; others I design from scratch by myself. I've been lucky in my collaboration with Absolut Shit Records in that I have a lot of creative control and very rarely end up working on something that's completely different from the artwork I do outside of the record label.
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Top Panel - Origin and End, 2019 / Mother of Milk, 2021 / Stigmata, 2019
Bottom Panel - Artwork Created for Absolut Shit Records
DA: This is a query from Morgaen Muñoz , a collage artist based out of Vermont. It seemed to her that a lot of your work reflects the theme of transformation, almost like your pieces were paused in the midst of a transmogrification from one form to another. Is there an overarching message you are trying to convey to your viewers? What themes do you find yourself coming back to the most?
COS: I definitely think transformation is an underlying theme of a lot of collage and mixed media art. I like to take something innocent and transform it into something less innocent. I consider myself a pop artist, so I'm always trying to convey a twist, like a plot twist. There's usually some type of Americana in my artwork that I'm trying to, like, expose as being a mirage. I'm heavily influenced by daily life in modern America which includes gun violence, anti-intellectualism, sexual violence, bigotry and racism.
DA: Not only does your collage work often have political undertones, you were pretty active on Instagram this past year showing your disdain for Trump, as well as your support for BLM and the LGBTQ community. How does politics fit into your work? Do you consider yourself a social activist? What are your thoughts about using art as a political weapon?
COS: If my work doesn't successfully convey some type of social message, then I consider it failed art. I have little interest in art that doesn't attempt to convey a message about the human condition, and that's what I consider "politics" to be. I don't consider myself an activist, necessarily, but I'm definitely politically active. Most people are not going to get through a conversation with me without some discussion of politics.
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If There Were Water We Should Stop and Drink, 2020 / We're All Fucked / Everything Was New Again, 2020
DA: We have been facing a lot of challenges this past year. How has creativity helped you during this time? What is most inspiring to you through all of this? What do you do when you feel weighed down by it all?
COS: I use collage-making as a type of creative therapy, so it's definitely helped me channel my anger, which is the feeling I felt the most in the pandemic. Anger at the failed response of my state and federal government; anger at my fellow citizens who won't do the safe thing. Unfortunately, the stress of daily life in the pandemic has definitely had a negative impact on the amount of artwork I've produced in the past year. I've gone entire months during the pandemic without creating a single piece of art.
DA: I feel you. For me, film and music got me through the darker moments. A new favorite song of mine is "Lifetime" by Yves Tumor. What’s on your playlist these days? Give me your top pick to share with your fans.
COS: I recently discovered a group called Poliça through a Netflix series I watched. I've had this song by them on repeat since last summer.
DA: Last question! Do you have any big projects in the works that you would like to share with us? What can your fans look forward to in 2021 and beyond?
COS: More artwork for Absolut Shit Records is coming with a new record due out soon. I'd say follow my Instagram to stay updated but my plans for 2021 are to SURVIVE.
Instagram | cultofsharon