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Biography

Sharon Kerry-Harlan was born in Miami, Florida and currently resides in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and Hollywood, Florida. She received a BA from Marquette University and studied art at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, both located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Kerry-Harlan’s work includes textiles, mixed media, and photography. Her work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally at the Smithsonian/Renwick Gallery, the American Craft Museum, the Harn Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Racine Art Museum, and many others. She is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and Progressive Insurance. Her work has been published in books and art catalogues and was featured on the front page of the New York Times art sections in December 2020. 

 

Sharon worked at Marquette University as an Academic Coordinator.  She also taught textile courses as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  

Artist Statement

I create mixed-media and textile art addressing contemporary American life through the lens of my own experience, rooted in visual elements of my ancestral heritage. Using asymmetry, geometric design, earth tones, human figures, oversized faces, and ornate textural embellishment, my work merges tradition and observation, creating a visual metaphor for the organized chaos of the current world.

I focus on the act of making a mark, preserving a record of the here and now, with a special focus on transient, unseen, and marginalized perspectives. My museum-scale quilts and paper collages pay tribute to the longstanding practice of sewing together disparate scraps to form a cohesive whole—a quilting tradition present in both West African and modern African-American communities.

My artwork tells stories: preserving the rusted outlines of industrial farming equipment, repurposing abstract photographic shapes in paint designs, and presenting large-scale Black human faces as fabric patterns. I manipulate fabric and paper ephemera via rust dying, discharge dying, screen printing, and painting on large swaths, then later tear, re-sew, and arrange the pieces, along with painted imagery and found objects, into giant pictorial configurations. With a jazz sensibility and a geometric foundation informing the composition process, my work balances structure with freedom. Idiosyncratic and familiar imagery is arranged with hieroglyphic care, reflecting the chaotic, improvisational music of densely populated cities: the many faces seen in a flash, the snippet of conversation overheard on a crowded street, the people who come and go endlessly, and the question of what that quick turnaround means.

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