Tara Lewis’ new collection of paintings challenge conventional portraiture with unique focus on female agency and contemporary complexities of femininity. Signaled by popular culture, the figures embody artist-curated personas and roles. The paintings feature models that self-style with garments and props the artist provides at her studio. The portraits exude self-awareness, individuality, irreverence and satirical punch informed by expectations and stereotyping of gender roles.
Taking cues from pop history and borrowing concepts from films and characters such as Jaws, the Lone Ranger and Venus, Lewis’ paintings weave a new narrative. The portraits are seasoned with generic wearables such as cowgirl hat, bikinis and bathing suits. The concept of ‘female swimmer’ is considered in each painting. Prompted by the idiom ‘sink or swim’, Lewis considered the opposite of ‘to swim’, which is ‘to settle’ or ‘to sink’. Female swimmers, a double entendre for the body of work, celebrate the energy of female agency in a contemporary culture of revolving issues, stereotypes and expectations.
Tara Lewis earned her BA in Painting and Printmaking at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH and her MA in Visual Studios and Art Education at Tufts University and The Museum School in Boston, MA. Lewis has spent over a decade as a Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH. Her artwork has been included in exhibitions and events at the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO, The Watermill Center, Watermill, NY, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, NY, New York Fashion Week and is held in private collections in Palm Beach, New York, London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Lewis has been featured in publications such as Whitewall Magazine, New York Magazine, Elle, Vice, Artnet, Art + Auction, and Cultured Magazine among others, and was recently published in RxArt’s Between the Lines, Volume 7: Contemporary Artist Coloring Book. Lewis designs and prints her own text idioms onto wearable objects such as satin pageant sashes and t-shirts, which she considers unique limited-edition print objects. These objects convey messages, re-examine stereotypes & explore timeless youth culture and serve as a trampoline for her paintings. The interaction of word & image is central to her work. Lewis is a direct descendant of Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha, one of her primary influences, who also infused typefaces and cultural portraiture into his celebrated and pivotal compositions. The artist lives and works in New York City.