an artist you should know: Tara McPherson






Tara McPherson has an impressive resume. She's a writer, painter, printmaker and sculptor. She worked on Futurama while still in college, has a line of toys with Dark Horse Comics and Kidrobot, and is currently working on a graphic novel with DC. She has made countless promotional posters for the Melvins, Beck, Kings of Leon, Mastodon, Shonen Knife, and other bands. Plus she's got great tattoos AND work that translates really well into tattoos (which is something I'm thinking about...)

McPherson is sometimes identified as being part of the "low-brow" or "Pop Surrealist" genre, which is a loosely defined art movement that draws inspiration from pop culture: TV, cartoons, comics, underground music, and all the stuff that's generally not thought of as "art" in the traditional, academic sense. Now, I consider myself an academic, but I also think everything is art, and I consider pop culture to be a barometer of sorts for discerning where society is in terms of its values, fears and wishes. I mean, it's either pop culture or politics, and politics gives me a headache.

McPherson's art resonated with me immediately. It's pretty obvious by now that I really get into the synthesis of seemingly opposing ideas, imagery and themes in art. Her work is brightly colored, kitschy, cartoonish and fun. It's easily accessible to many people. But it's also full of body horror, mysterious imagery, and a sense of both alienation and introspection seen in her use of the fantastical planets and vast recesses of space where her figures float. It's like watching a slightly malevolent cartoon in a language you can't understand, one that makes references to a culture you are only dimly familiar with. I find that McPherson's art also sparks the ideas of where art and decoration meet, if they are different, and what those differences may be. Are these pictures merely decorative, the artistic equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons, or is there something more to them? Are those cartoons actually making a veiled statement about something? Do cartoons and decoration have to stand diametrically opposed to art and meaningful social discourse?

McPherson also makes sculpture. I included an example of it (second picture down). These guys, who can also be seen in the top image and in other paintings, are collectively known as "Mr. Wiggles," and I kind of really, really want one of them. The sculpted versions seem to come in turquoise, pink, and black, and I want a pink one. She also makes sculptures (I believe they're all fiberglass/polyurethane. I think) of the skull flowers that can be seen in the background of the Melvins poster. She's also got a line of merchandise (which also creates the discussion of commercialism and art--do the essay topics never stop??) on her website. Check it out.