The Pop Surrealist Portraiture of Tara McPherson
McPherson uses her haunting, otherworldly portraits to explore the complexity of the human psyche.
Tara McPherson's work can be seen, well, all over the place. From paintings to music posters, to children's toys, books and film - McPherson has pretty much covered it all.
McPherson was born in San Francisco in 1976, where she went to an arts magnet school. It was there she studied drawing, painting, and photography until she "got bored" and took a proficiency test at just 16 to leave early. A short time later, she enrolled at her local community college and took an astronomy class that -essentially- played a huge role in her aesthetic as an artist. This was where she really got into space, stars, planets- all of which are extremely prominent in her work now.
As far as the clean, crisp way in which she works- that can be greatly accredited to a job she had during this time. She landed a job as the manager of a Japanese toy, animation and comic-book store where the Asian aesthetic had a great influence on how she painted. She worked there for 3 years prior to attending the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.
She graduated with a BFA in Illustration & Fine Art, and got a job doing some re-touching for a photographer. At the same time, she began playing in an all-girl punk band, who she illustrated the posters for. She eventually teamed up with the LA branch of the Knitting Factory, a kickass venue, by creating posters for various bands and shows and selling them there. This, essentially, created the opportunity for her to work with so many awesome bands in the future.
As far as her musical clients go, she's worked with some of the biggest names out there. Beck, Modest Mouse, Mastodon, Green Day, The Hives, Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, just to name a few- and the list truly does go on and on.
Recent from Stories
Aside from the literally countless galleries who have displayed McPherson's work and the posters she has done for some of your favorite bands- her whimsical art has also made appearances in some of your favorite movies (remember Juno?) and commercials. Her work has transcended gallery walls and infiltrated almost every nook and cranny of visual culture- which is pretty difficult to do as an artist - and she has really done it.
McPherson now resides in NYC where she consistently creates and shows her otherworldly creations.
“I’m interested in alternate dimensions, multiple dimensions, deep sea and deep space. It’s fascinating how shapes mimic each other. The way water swirls looks like a galaxy, deep-sea jellyfish look like a galaxy-exploding nebula” She says, “These theories, from Einstein and others, they were trying to figure out how space worked, trying to comprehend our world.”
In her own way, Ms. McPherson is doing the same thing.
“I’m exploring life and love and relationships, how people can hurt each other and make each other feel so lonely and so much pain. … It’s about my life and my friends’ lives, but it’s also about all of our lives.”
Over the years and to this day, McPherson makes appearances, gives lectures and even teaches classes- and for good reason. Her artistic background and experience is the stuff people aspire to, and she's showing no signs of slowing down.
Check out some of our favorite pieces from McPherson below.