This week, pop culture made its way into the Merlino gallery – in the form of cats. But beyond the cultural reference, the cat prints had a much deeper meaning for their creator, Ashley Sharpe.
The bright colors, crazy prints, glitter cans, toy mice, and hanging string truly brought the room (and the cats inside it) to life
As expected, when Sharpe moved to California for school, she dealt with anxiety from being in such a new place, so far from those she grew up with. It was during this time her new roommates’ cats became like a second, furry family to her. In a world of new craziness, these cats created a calm, happy place for Sharpe, and so she felt compelled to pay tribute.
Though many of the pieces were of cats she’d personally encountered, some pieces included Internet sensation cats. Sharpe said she liked them because she thought it was funny that cats could have so many more followers than actual people.
Sharpe was raised by a family of artistic people; her dad was a teacher but loved painting, her mother was an interior designer, and her grandmother was a painter. With these significant influencers in her life, it is no wonder Sharpe’s interest in art began at an early age. She said in elementary school she was constantly doodling on her papers in class, and even got in trouble a few times for drawing unicorns – which were deemed black magic by her highly conservative school. But, she continued creating and even took her first “real art class”, an oil painting lesson, around age 10. She continued to pursue her art interest in high school, and after taking a digital photography class her senior year, decided to pursue an education in graphic arts. After some time at community colleges like OCC, her intuition led her to CSULB. Now, she has shifted her focus to printmaking, but the influences of graphic design and photography are still highly present in her work.
A few of my personal favorite pieces were the three eyed cat and the cat couple. The changes Sharpe makes are subtle yet quite unexpected, and through them she’s created an alternate cat-world for her work to live in
Her current work contains many types of printmaking, from basic screen-printing to more intricate lithographs and etchings. She describes most of her works as Photolithographs, since she typically works with both photography and printmaking. She will first alter photos in Photoshop, and once she has created an image she likes, transfers the image to a screen for printing. After printing, she adds further detail with watercolors and simple hand drawing to create truly unique works.
She likes working with geometric shapes and patterns; a relatively evident fact when looking at her cat kaleidoscope (catleidoscope?) prints. Many of her pieces were so intricate and detailed it was hard to imagine them ever being simple pictures of cats.
Though this is her BFA show, Sharpe says she wants to continue taking art classes at community colleges. She also hopes to someday return to school for either a teaching degree or MFA, but for now may pursue a career in graphic design back in Palm Springs. She says she wants to work on a new show featuring different types of food in the near future, but will most likely continue creating cat artwork as well (she even mentioned making a life sized cat sculpture soon). She also wants to own her own cat in the near future, but is waiting for the finances to do so first. With her highly marketable work and immense skill, it seems Sharpe will have no problem turning any of these dreams into reality. Perhaps someday she will even own an Internet-sensation cat of her own. Until then, I’m glad to have seen her impressive artwork and wish her all the best.