Adhoc Interviews

Curating a Constant Communication: Jenny Sharaf

Jenny Sharaf is an artist currently working in San Fransisco, California. Though she identifies herself as a painter, her work represents various media such as video, collage and painting that all find communication with each other. Jenny also practices curating exhibitions where she engages with the art world and finds the opportunity to share local working artists. See more of her work and see more of her projects on her website.

MFA Show at Mills College 2013.
MFA Show at Mills College 2013.
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The Blondes Mixed Media. 2013.


When did you first identify yourself as an artist?

I think I’ve always identified myself an artist, although my definition of what that means has definitely shifted throughout my 29 years.

Did you study art at a university or other institution?

I did my undergraduate degree in fine art at University of Hawaii at Manoa and my MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA.

What medium are you most particularly attracted to and why is it important for the dissemination of your work?

I consider myself a painter above all else. I think it informs how I see and do things. I’ve also always romanticized painters, so it may have something to do with that too.

Who are these painters that you have romanticized?

I love painters and sometimes feel like I’m making work just for other painters. That being said, the artists that I have romanticized most are probably Philip Guston, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Artsschwager, Frank Stella, Joan Mitchell, Warhol and Joan Brown. I don’t romanticize younger painters in the same way, but definitely think they’re the coolest people around. Painters get IT.

Lynda Benglis Having Lunch at Fred Segals Paint on Canvas. 2014.
Lynda Benglis Having Lunch at Fred Segals Paint on Canvas. 2014.
Detail from MFA show.


How has your art progressed or changed as you have continued to work?

My work is hopefully always changing. I try to challenge myself when the my studio starts to feel too safe or routine. If I look back at my older work, it all feels like it informs what I’m doing now. It’s very much connected, whether I realize it or not.

What inspires you for a new series of work?

I try to not work in series, but allow one work to lead to the next. There are always unfinished questions to answer and new experiments to try. Materials often lead the way.

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From the ‘Rebranding Feminism’ Series Work on Paper. 2013.


Your paintings, collages and videos are very different in style and aesthetic, yet when you bring them together into an installation, they function as a whole to create one piece. How do your works in various media all communicate with each other?

Installation is where everything comes together and finally makes sense. I hope that everything is in conversation with each other. Especially working in abstraction, it’s important to me that people understand my intentions.

Do you view installations then to be the ultimate end goal to your work, or do you have work that can communicate in multiple installations in it’s lifetime?

Right now, installations are the ultimate goal, but I still like presenting one offs and single works as well. The installations can be recreated in various ways. The paintings looks interesting when arranged a multitude of ways, so they definitely exist in different iterations.

Concerning your installation work, what inspires you first – the space or the work you’ve made for it?

So far, it’s been a combination of both, although I haven’t gotten to work in huge spaces yet.

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Melted Feminism Paint on Canvas. 2014.


Digital Collage Projection or Print. 2015.


You share your work online as well as have it exhibited in gallery spaces all over California. What do you think is important for viewers experiencing your work in person as apposed to online?

Good question. I think that in today’s art world, it is as important what your work looks like in a jpeg as it does in real life. A lot of my paintings have neon palettes that don’t seem to translate into a digital image. Some of the surface fetish is lost. BUT it all matters.

What role does the viewer play in your work?

I’m always thinking about how others will see my work. It’s important that my work functions on many different levels and appeals to a wide range of demographics.

Why do you think it is important to have art exhibited in galleries and museums?

For me, I have a need to share my work with an audience. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t feel this way. It would be a lot easier if I was content to paint in my studio and leave it at that. But, obviously I have a lot more ambition. Showing in galleries and museums opens you up to a wide range of people seeing your work. There’s a certain recognition and validation inherent to this process that reaffirms the hard work done in the studio.

Tell me about your experience in curatorial work and how it has affected your own work and its interpretation?

I started curating while I was graduate school, mostly just trying to get to know the art world and put my friends in shows. I saw a lot of talented emerging artists that weren’t represented and very much under the radar. The way that I curate is very intuitive, similar to they manner in which I make art. I think I will have a better idea in a year or so on how it all connects to my studio practice, but right now I’m just letting it evolve.

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Part of the “Femmescape” Series Digital Wallpaper. 2014.


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Grandma’s Fabric Fabric and Paint. 2014.


Last modified: May 9, 2015