Theresa Pfarr is an artist and Adjunct Professor of Art at
The College of New Jersey. Recently her work has been
included in exhibitions at Ada Gallery, Richmond, VA, the
McGlothlin Center for the Arts in Emory, Virginia, Angela
Meleca Gallery, Columbus, OH, and Modern arts Midtown
in Omaha,NE. Grants and awards include a New Jersey
State Arts Council Grant, a Pollock-Krasner Grant, a
Roswell A-I-R Grant, a Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for
the Arts Residency, a Virginia Center for the Arts Fellowship,
a Jentel Residency and a Puffin Foundation Grant. Her work
is included in the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art
and many private collections.
Beginning from a reaction to images of women produced by
the media and fashion industry, I work to investigate what it
means to construct an identity from popularized external
beauty standards. My work is broadly inspired by the history
and vanity of portrait painting, more specifically concerning
the outer image or shell built in the habitual pursuit of beauty.
In answer to damaging socially-constructed beauty standards
I work to conflate the cultural, commercial and personal through
a process of painting and collaging images into paintings and
works on paper. Influenced by celebrity crisis, celebrity obsession,
plastic surgery, and fashion imagery, I paint to convey the anxiety
of inhabiting a continually mediated self. I paint to depict the
space between desire and disappointment. Using painterly
contradictions of strength and vulnerability, attraction and
repulsion I work to create beings that are awkward but known.
Limbs distort, paint melts into skin and glances confront
in discord to suggest different states of psychic disintegration.
- Theresa Pfarr 2018
In "Lady Lazarus" Sylvia Plath asks us, "Do I terrify? - The nose,
the eye pits, the full set of teeth?" Theresa Pfarr's women and
children - shy, disdainful, bone-tired, contorted, and defiantly
vulnerable - gaze directly at us with the same imperative: Do I
terrify? Is this what you wanted? This exaggerated swagger and
hip-cock, these shoulders like knives, my neck thrown back like
this, my wrists bound by invisible lines?
The first impression given by these figures is that they are fashion
plates, a body in pieces, a dressed window, but look closely. It
is hard to do this, to withstand the judgement in these postures
and faces painted for the stage, the marketplace, war.
Every viewer becomes their maker, because these figures are the
products of our desire. They emerge from gorgeous static-color
fields both intuitive and precise- and are arrested at just that
moment before they return to nothingness, their natural state. For
these are no longer women and they know it; they are all
impossibilities and they all look like they are in danger. Their
sorrow is ethereal and in the end more beautiful than their
surfaces of longing.
"What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?
I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is just what I want.......
If you only knew how the veils were killing my days."
-from "A Birthday Present", Sylvia Plath
- Leigh Anne Couch, 2004, Roswell A-I-R catalog essay