Paintings hung on a white wall.

Shara Mays

Affiliate, 2020 - 2022

A portrait of a person against a light background.

Artist Statement

I am a visual artist whose work employs drawing, painting, and sculpture. My practice explores the cultural politics of identity and how institutional racism shapes one’s psychological manifestation of self. My work uses a visual vocabulary to question both the social as well as the psychological constructs of Blackness in contemporary American society. Born in Princeville, North Carolina and currently living in Oakland, California, I earned an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and a BFA from the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University.

What are the ways in which we navigate between cultural stereotypes and one’s singularity? My current practice explores that question by engaging with the visual spaces between figuration and abstraction. Symbols and photographic references spark discourse surrounding honesty and integrity, as well as corruption of one’s character.

While at Headlands

While at Headlands, I will expand upon California Spring, a series of large-scale paintings which explore the history of landscape painting, in particular panoramic views of the American West created by painters of the nineteenth century. The series of paintings are inspired by research into the history of American westward expansion through the lens of painting, as well as the history of lynching within the United States. My research, although steeped with negativity, informs the outcome of my paintings, transforming a past rife with violence into a cathartic meditation on transcendence. The surroundings of Headlands will guide me in exerting a welcomed contemporary and present moment into the work I will produce while there.