Urban Chatter: textile art by Sharon Kerry-Harlan
Ronald E. Holstein Gallery, February 16 – April 29, 2018

“The density of contemporary city living” provides the inspiration for Sharon Kerry-Harlan’s Urban Chatter series. Her work, like a bustling city, “merges vocal, electronic, mental, and spiritual chaos into a confluence of concentric hustles, jabbers of conversations.” Her art quilts and textile collages are visual jazz improvisations. Bright, playful, rhythmic, jagged, and curved, the compositions zag through percussive exclamations and restful spaces.

The roots of jazz are made visible in the black and rust palette of traditional mud cloth. The figures and faces seem to meld contemporary cartooning, abstraction, African sculptures, and ritual masks. The namesake of the exhibition, “Urban Chatter” compresses figures and faces into an abstract cityscape. A clock occupies a prominent space in the grid. “Straight No Chaser” pays homage to mid-century urban music: instruments and musicians, musical notes, marquees, and snippets of jazz lingo. The Neo Geo fabric collages are small improvisations, stitching symbols and abstractions into visual poems.

Figuration is interspersed with geometry throughout the exhibit. Kerry-Harlan writes, “I use the human figure to make statements about the quick turnarounds that confront us both in life’s mundane and unexpected circumstances.  I am particularly intrigued by the human face—what it reveals to the world and what it disguises from the world.”

Sharon Kerry-Harlan was born in Miami, Florida and currently resides in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and Hollywood, Florida. She received a BA from Marquette University and studied art at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Kerry-Harlan’s work includes textiles, mixed media, and photography. Her work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally at the Smithsonian/Renwick Gallery, the American Craft Museum, the Harn Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and many others. Her work has been published in books and art catalogues. In 2017, her work was included in three South African exhibitions. It is also part of the US Department of State Art in Embassies Permanent Collection.