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Sharon Brening: Capturing the richness of character

Shea Stanfield~ 10/1/2014

SCOTTSDALE – An ancient Native American reflection says, “Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.”  The exquisite Native American portraits by local artist Sharon Brening entice the viewer’s attention, before asking for their hearts.  

Sharon’s romance with the vast landscapes and its gentle native people began as a child when her family relocated to Arizona.  Her photographer father would lead the family on adventurous treks through the windswept vistas of Monument Valley, the spiritual silence of Canyon de Chelly, and the splendid grandeur of the Grand Canyon.  Often their journey led them to the trading posts in the area, where small Sharon witnessed the culture of the surrounding area in all its vibrancy.  She watched her father respectfully photograph babies in their cradleboards and observed wooden wagons drawn by teams of horses or mules carrying residents between destinations.  Even as young as she was, Sharon picked up that the rhythm of life here was very different from her own.

Sharon’s mother enrolled her in a watercolor class at the age of ten.  The medium became her way of expressing her deep reverence for the life of the Native people she met and wanted to better understand.  From that point on, Sharon would spend countless hours drawing and painting, perfecting her skills with a desire to share what she saw and felt with others.  Today one of her earliest works, of a small Indian girl with a pot on her head, hangs in her studio, reminding her of those early days.

Today, Sharon journeys back to Arizona’s Navajo land, the Hopi pueblos, and the high mesa villages of New Mexico. She has developed long-lasting friendships with the families whose children she has painted portraits of over the years.  Sharon is proud to share that a portion of every portrait sold compensates the family that has so generously invited her into their lives.  Following in her father’s footsteps, Sharon uses photography to capture the detail of dress, the color of the environment, and the uniqueness of character in her models.  She returns to her studio with a wealth of images in preparation for her finished work. 

Each weekday, Sharon is in her studio working hours on a number of her paintings.  It’s not unusual for her to have four or five works going at the same time.  She uses old master painting techniques: painting and glazing layer after layer, which adds the richness, depth, and vibrancy to the subject.  Sharon renders her subjects so expertly that the viewer feels the subject could walk right out of the canvas.

A member of the Western Artists of America, Sharon enjoyed a solo exhibition in 2010 at the Pearce Western Art Museum, Corsicana, Texas, with a painting that is now in their permanent collection. In 2011, Sharon Brening became the first woman to win the prestigious gold medal award for oil painting at the Annual Western Artists of America Show and Sale in Texas. She received two Awards of Excellence in 2012 from the American Plains Artist show at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas and in 2013 had a painting purchased to hang in Scottsdale, Arizona’s Museum of the West, opening in late 2014. 

In Sharon’s words, “I am a traditional realist painter. I feel compelled to continue painting the stories of people that I have come to know as friends and help preserve their rich heritage. I strive to capture the spirit of the essence of each model I paint. The beauty we are surrounded with each new day inspires me. I’m currently working on expanding my art work venue to include what I call Imaginative Realism, which is so exciting!”

Visit Sharon and see her work Oct. 3-5 in Wickenburg, Ariz. at the Home on the Range-Fine Art Exhibit and Sale at the Desert Caballeros Museum, Cultural Crossroads and Learning Center, 21 North Frontier Street.  Also visit Studio 9 during this year’s Hidden In The Hills Studio Tour, held the last two weekends in November in the Desert Foothills area. 

For more information and to see more of Sharon’s work, visit her Web site at www.sbrening.com. To set up an appointment, email her at
Sharon@sbrening.com or call her at (602) 679-8484.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at flowingquill@yahoo.com.