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Sharon VanStarkenburg: The Debutantes


Sharon VanStarkenburg’s The Debutantes is a series of works that are at once imagined and experienced, attractive and jarring. We are proud to showcase this great Ottawa talent in her first solo show at WALL SPACE GALLERY, September 12th to October 3rd, 2015.

In VanStarkenburg’s latest series of female subjects/protagonists, the viewer is confronted with luxuriously painted images that simultaneously delight and disturb. Beautiful skin tones, textures and colours mingle with overt references to the internal, the hidden, the excessive. The push and pull VanStarkenburg creates in each of her pieces carries the story forward.

In the artist’s words:

“The heroines in my series The Debutantes are girls on the brink of adulthood, with signifiers of this coming-of-age such as wisdom teeth, tiaras, burgeoning sexuality and makeup that runs amuck. The debutante has traditionally been a young woman presented to adult society with ceremonies, proclaiming her a woman and eligible for marriage. In this series the pieces exist in a shifting time, so that they are both the young woman anticipating womanhood and a memory of herself from some time in the future. The desperate desire for beauty is pervasive in these pieces. There is an aura of violence and taboo in the work as the pubescent girls are sexualized and hyper feminized. They are at once timid and bold, attempting to assert some autonomy and sass, but are also overlaid with expectations and reservations. The work contains the struggle between what the heroine chooses and what is chosen for her, and attempts to understand which is which.”

VanStarkenburg considers her work and ongoing exploration of the psychology of the self – a self which is found within the artist, her subjects, and the viewer themselves.

“The work can be derived from very personal and intimate experiences, but presented as it is for public consideration, it becomes fiction on which the viewer can project and take away from. The female body is often referenced in my work, either by its presence or absence, as the impetus by which the drama unfolds.”

Join us September 12th – October 3rd to experience this striking body of work.

*NEW: Thank you to Peter Simpson, art critic for the Ottawa Citizen, who has written a glowing review of the exhibition. The article can be found through Ottawa Citizen website here.

Sharon VanStarkenburg gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the City of Ottawa.