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April 15, 2013

Modern Day Matisse: Shara Hughes Solo Exhibit at the ACAC

A globe-trotting painter returns to her hometown

By Nancy Staab

“Home is Where the Art Is” could be the theme of this Atlanta-based artist’s new show at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, April 19-June15. Hughes’ color-drenched paintings of stuffed and appointed interiors are mesmerizing and reference both David Hockney and Henri Matisse for inspiration.

Artist Shara Hughes and her works Artist Shara Hughes and her works

Atlanta-based artist Shara Hughes has shown her work throughout Europe and beyond, with shows in Berlin, London, and New York City, as well as in Italy, China and Denmark. Now the Lovett School grad has come home to roost with her first solo exhibit in Atlanta at the ACAC (Atlanta Contemporary Art Center) April 19-June15. After earning an MFA in painting from RISD and living for a time in New York City, thirty-something Hughes has returned to Atlanta to paint and reside in her light filled and paint-spattered loft.  Her latest paintings and her new foray into 3-D sculpture will be part of the exhibit entitled “Don’t Tell Anyone But…” curated by Stuart Horodner.

A sculpture by Shara Hughes A sculpture by Shara Hughes

Hughes’ color-drenched, acrylic paint canvases typically re-create busy interiors, crammed with bric-a-brac and revealing dizzyingly skewered, fun-house perspectives. The works often limn the boundaries between interiors, still life and figurative painting as well. But even when a blurred figure is not present, these telling interiors seem to speak volumes about their owners: whether filled with garish wallpaper, modernist sculpture, or a fishbowl with two swimming goldfish—a nod to Matisse? In colors and patterns and shapes, Hughes’ work does seem to recall Henri Matisse, or the fussy interiors of Pierre Bonnard, but the artist that Hughes most often cites as inspiration is pop artist David Hockney, the British painter of California cool, aqua swimming pools and the listless inhabitants of California- modern interiors.

Hughes’ paintings also hover between pure abstraction and representational paintings. These canvases depict surreal, distorted, irrational and dream-like interiors that hint at psychological values. The very title of the exhibit “Don’t Tell Anyone But…” also suggests that these paintings harbor tantalizing secrets.

Hughe’s 3-D sculptures seem to have sprung straight out of her paintings; they are downright Dr.Seussian. To wit, a cartoonish desk with a candlestick. Horodner writes that her assemblages contain “Pop-infused Cubist attitude. Built with wood, cardboard, canvas, foam and various found or store-bought items….” and that these pieces exude a “comic and clunky theatricality that one might associate with early Claes Oldenburg." Make you own art comparisons when this artist's artist comes to the ACAC on April 19-June 15.


Meet artist Shara Hughes at the exhibit opening Friday, April 19, 7-10PM with free parking, cash bar and light bites. Hughes is the recipient of the 2012-13 MOCA GA Working Artist Project Fellowship award and is represented by American Contemporary in New York City, Mikael Andersen gallery in Copenhagen, Denmark and Berlin, Germany and Metroquadro gallery in Rivoli, Italy. For more info on her show at the ACAC visit  or

A recent work by Shara Hughes A recent work by Shara Hughes


A recent work by Shara Hughes A recent work by Shara Hughes


An older work by Shara Hughes An older work by Shara Hughes