Tara Centybear is a contemporary painter whose work focuses on the inherent difficulties of navigating identity, both the discovery of our own and others. Two major bodies of work currently dominate her practice; the Persister portrait series, life-size oil paintings that explore identity and gender roles, and Bling and Jewels, a body of work that discuss issues of home and emotional baggage through the depiction of feathered creatures, insects, crystal clusters, and other forms in nature.
Unlike traditional portraits, Centybear’s Persister paintings depict women with their faces partially masked by items that embody pivotal personal experiences. These life-size highly realistic oil paintings represent women entrepreneurs, political activists, women working in the arts, and commissioned subjects. The masking of the face acknowledges the multidimensional and difficult task of truly knowing each other and even ourselves. Each of us struggles in our personal evolution due to societal and prejudicial barriers, personal traumas, mental illness, the list is never ending. These paintings celebrate each subject’s accomplishments and experiences, each unique, but always linking us together through the shared human experience.
Tara’s whimsical Bling and Jewel series combine detailed watercolor paintings with cut paper, magazine collage, sewing thread, and 3-dimensional crystals. Usually petite in size these works depict colorfully patterned birds, nests, and bugs traveling on a fantasy journey to the unknown. Sometimes her creatures buzz across the page, while other times they are lifeless under the weight of a large tourmaline crystal or chunk of gold. The traveling bugs carry huge stacks of large inanimate objects, playfully referencing the emotional baggage we all carry with us each day. The works touch on concepts of home, and how we bring our experiences with us, though usually invisibly, wherever we go.
Centybear lives and works as a full-time artist in Portland, OR. She graduated with distinction from the MFA program at Goldsmith's College, University of London and received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited her work across the globe including London, Italy, New York, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, and most recently Portland.