Sharon Irla photographed by Tulsa People

Sharon Irla

Sharon Irla (b. 1957 — ) is a contemporary Cherokee artist whose collective body of works span the fields of painting, murals, graphics and photography. Her studio is located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Visit SharonIrla.com for more information.

Themes

- Irla’s current artistic field of focus is that of oil paintings – primarily portraits of Indigenous women and girls, in which Irla seeks to capture contemporary, traditional and historical feminine and/or matriarchal themes. Her works reach beyond the visual aesthetic, as Irla is very purposeful in researching and choosing subject matters that will illustrate the presence and importance of Indigenous women and seeks to explore the multifaceted form and spirit of the “everyday” Native woman – balanced in the cusp of traditional roots and modern living.

Technique

- To the casual passer-by, Irla’s richly painted portraits of Native American women are often mistaken for photographs or photo-realism, however, her technique would more aptly be categorized as representational, flourished with tenebrism. The stated end-goal of her hybrid style of realism, is “to create art” (which may also incorporate stylized ancient Indigenous symbolism, as well as use texturizing or “faux painting” techiques), “to capture the spirit of the subject matter”.

Through her first commissioned works in the Dallas area, Irla acquired the painting techniques required of a muralist and decorative artist. She credits this period of time as the experience through which she “… learned a variety of painting techniques which brought a better understanding of how the juxtaposition of colors, layers of paint, glazes, and a large variety of brushes all play a major role in achieving realism.” But for portraits, Irla primarily uses the Old Master techniques to achieve luminous flesh tones.

Unique Frames

- Collectors of some of Irla’s paintings are, in effect, acquiring two works of art, as some of these works are framed with the artist’s hand-built, custom designed frames. These uniquely designed and textured frames subtly incorporate stylized ancient Indigenous symbols and iconography, which delicately echo and enhance the themes established within the paintings. Paintings with these frames include “Cherokee Beauty – The Shell Earring“, “Crows Stirring The Magic“, “Mother’s Prayer” and “Mississippian Ink“.