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Sharon Bond Brown on Women's Ordinary Lives

Sharon Bond Brown is a contemporary painter fascinated with snapshots, casual images that capture candid moments. Acquiring random photos from antique shops and friends, she adopts portions of the photographic images to create painted compositions that add or eliminate elements. Beginning with either colored gesso or acrylic under-painting, the finished images are worked in oil over these preparatory surfaces, which often glow through from beneath the glazed-on oil. The results are situations, faces, and places offering a universal resonance.

“I am the daughter, granddaughter and sister of psychiatrists so I have always been drawn to the inner stories of people,” she says. “I have been appreciating the extraordinary in ordinary and banal moments caught by the home photographer for the last 28 years, when, following a career in social services, I came to my senses and turned to art full time.”

Brown and her husband were forerunners in Denver’s burgeoning art scene when in 1990 they bought an industrial pattern shop that they converted into an art gallery and home. They later helped start the RiNo art district, a thriving concentration of creative businesses, including architects, art galleries, designers, furniture makers, illustrators, painters, media artists, photographers and sculptors.

An avid reader, Sharon Bond Brown recommends three good books celebrating women's ordinary lives:

La Vida
by Oscar Lewis

This seminal sociological study of the culture of poverty in Puerto Rico and New York is an explosive page turner. It is the ultimate example of authentic voice and its power. The insights about the effect of poverty are revealed through the voices of a family, raw and riveting. Its first line: "I am as frank as I am ugly and I don't try to hide what I am because you can't cover up the sky with your hand." I have read it three times and will again, all 700 pages of it.


Mrs. Bridge
by Evan Connell

This book is a snapshot of the 1950s through vignettes of ordinary life. Short, clean, clear, it mines the role of woman as wife, mother, and social being. It so accurately depicts the repression and expression of the period and the paralyzing effect of self-consciousness. Its often one-page chapters capture life as it is remembered . . . episodically. Funny, keen, ironic, rich, it was the first book I chose for my now 26-year-old book group.

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls

This remarkable memoir was given to me by my first friend, with whom I reconnected 35 years later. Anyone would look at the "facts" of the author's hardscrabble life and be appalled. But it is testament to the triumph against all odds that Walls has found a voice and a life of value. Her generous portrait of her largely crazy parents also reveals the kind of dysfunctional petri dish that gave rise to her grit and determination. It has the best opening line of any memoir as well: "I was on fire."




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