2020 has been a year of reckoning, a year of soul-searching, a year of — we hope, ultimately — clarity. Uncomfortably bonded by a global pandemic, Americans have been confronting the long-unaddressed tears in our fabric of social justice: Black Lives Matter, health disparities along racial divides, governmental threats that challenge our Constitutional rights, an upcoming pivotal presidential election that divides.
We cannot seem to get it right.
These are the words spoken by Sheba Sharrow (1926–2006) to The New York Times in 2002. “As long as the world is going the way it is going, I cannot stop doing what I have been doing,” she explained, the voice of an artist who had witnessed and chronicled genocide, the struggle for civil rights, the often-bloody battles waged to live a human life.
The figurative painter’s works presented in this curated collection speak poignantly to our current times and yet were created decades before, an artist’s voice protesting Nazi Germany and bearing witness to the Holocaust, championing the cause of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and ’70s, and mourning the carnage brought on by wars. This voice, which has spanned the 20th century, is warning us: Learn from the past; history’s tragedies repeat.
Sharrow’s painterly storytelling, coupled with poetic text, is a cautionary tale, pleading that we have walked this path before and what we are experiencing now is not new to humankind.
In times of turmoil, art is an unrelenting mirror to what is transpiring before us, showing us truth, showing us the path in a way that mere words cannot. Artists like Sharrow are philosophers, activists, advocates — if only we’d listen. Sharrow’s paintings may reflect events and human tragedies from decades ago, but as today’s headlines show, they are not too far removed from what we see beyond our doorstep.
This exhibition — in person and online as a reflection of our socially distant times — gives us pause, a chance to think about our shared humanity through the generations and to conceive, as those who went before us had, better days ahead. The art inspires us to champion right and condemn wrong, and when the world becomes confusing, it fortifies us to be resilient and forge on.
James Yarosh Associates Fine Art Gallery invites you to view the following collection of Sheba Sharrow’s art below as it is paired with poetry, quotes and critical essays that serve as an online guide. By spending the time to really look at the paintings carefully and thoughtfully, we allow the artist’s work to resonate, connect and give voice to the past so we can learn from it once again.
Sharrow’s expressionistic work, with its stunning surfaces and unabashed bravery, seems to run toward difficult subject matter and may initially stop us in our tracks. Yet, as we look closer, we see the winning thought is ultimately to champion a belief in beauty. The artist’s work — now echoing through time — is an example of a lesson learned throughout the ages: The Arts are always there to lead the way.